The jumps are clean, the saddles are shined and all of the horses have had a bath. After nearly four months of preparation, the Stephens College Prince of Wales Club, said to be the oldest continuously active riding club in the country, is ready for its 77th annual charity horse show starting today.
The 30 student members of the Prince of Wales Club, assisted by Michelle Smith, chairwoman of the equestrian management department at Stephens, will manage and compete in the three-day horse show held west of Columbia at the Midway Exposition Center.
A portion of the proceeds from the competitors’ entry fees will be donated to the Cancer Research Center in Columbia.
In addition to her students and other riders from across Missouri, Smith expects the show to draw a large number of competitors from Kansas, Illinois and Oklahoma.
The show will feature riders and horses competing in various riding disciplines.
“Most of these kids show all of the time, anyway — this isn’t a once a year thing for us.” Smith said. “But it’s special because it’s our club hosting the event.”
Sarah Denninghoff, a senior equestrian business management major at Stephens and president of the Prince of Wales Club, will compete in the amateur adult hunter division. She said that although she has spent a great deal of time preparing for competition, the real work has been preparing to host the show.
“We had to raise $5,000 in sponsorship money to even put on the show,” Denninghoff said.
Stephens’ equestrian management department and the Prince of Wales Club have long been lures for aspiring equestrians, but beginning this fall the college will offer new degree programs that college leaders hope will increase enrollment.
In August, Stephens will offer a bachelor’s degree in equestrian science to students interested in pursuing a career in horse training, riding and teaching.
And through a partnership with Washington University in St. Louis, students will also be able to earn a bachelor’s in equestrian science from Stephens in three years followed by a master’s degree in occupational therapy from Washington University in two years.
“It’s particularly for those who want to do therapeutic riding,” Smith said. Therapeutic riding provides physical, emotional and mental therapy for individuals with disabilities.
Stephens now offers a bachelor’s in equestrian business management for students who want to work in horse-related businesses or a minor in equestrian science for students combining their equine study with another discipline.
“The program is changing and growing,” Smith said. “And we hope we can meet the needs of those interested in all aspects of the equestrian industry.”