The Quentin Fall Show—the Hunter/Jumper showcase that had been a tradition among equestrians for many years—is now the centerpiece of the Swan Lake Fall Festival. “What we envision is having a premier, AA-rated hunter show with 3* and 4* jumpers,” Nathan Panetta, the manager of Swan Lake Horse Shows announced in an April press release.
For equestrians who grew up showing at Quentin, and who have fond memories of the Lebanon, PA riding club’s show grounds, the announcement seemed ominous. Was this a harbinger of major changes at Quentin? Will there still be horse shows at this venerated facility?
Larry Minnich, President of Quentin Riding Club’s Board of Directors, says that there were lots of good reasons to find another venue for the historic Quentin Fall Show. “We’d like to have a horse show every day but if it doesn’t make any money and doesn’t make any sense then there’s no reason to do it. And that was the case the last five years or so.” He said that entries in the Quentin show had declined. And there are certain requirements for the rated shows that were difficult for Quentin to accommodate.
Footing, for one thing. Minnich says that the riding club is eager to replace the footing in the outdoor rings, but there are problems over which they have no control. “Back in 1990 a development above us put a water right of way in. That works okay unless you get a heavy storm and then one of the rings floods.” He says there’s no way to predict which rain storm will flood which ring. But the result is always the same: the footing washes away. “The new footing they have for Hunter/Jumper shows is very expensive. While we don’t mind doing that, we don’t want it to wash away.”
He says the highway department was supposed to complete a water remediation project this summer, but the project has yet to begin.
Despite the challenges they’re facing with intermittent flooding, Minnich says their facility is in excellent shape. “The grounds are in phenomenal condition,” he says. “We upgraded the sound system, rebuilt the grandstand, bought some new equipment to better maintain the rings, and added new lights.”
Minnich says that Quentin Riding Club has added new shows, like two Dressage shows, and a huge District 4H show in August. The people who operated the Dressage shows have already signed contracts for next year, he says. “We have fun shows once or twice a month, and we’ve had one of our better years,” he explains. “Swan Lake has great new facilities, but they don’t have what we have. We’re looking forward to the future, and there are fewer and fewer places that can accommodate these shows. We have lots of stalls, restaurants, camping facilities.” So they can easily handle competitors for multi-day events.
An influx of new people in the Riding Club has brought enthusiastic support for trying new things. They have a group devoted to fund-raising for important projects like restroom improvements. And all this enthusiasm adds up to new opportunities to add more shows.
Minnich says that the rated shows were just not the appropriate niche for Quentin anymore. “Rated shows require too much effort for too little return,” he says. “We do a lot of two-and-three-day shows, but the (rated) Hunter/Jumper shows require a lot of extras. We have a lot of jumps, but we don’t have enough.” So they had to rent jumps. And there are special judges for those shows. “You have to bring in special judges, and put them up in hotels, and pay for their transportation.”
While the Quentin Fall Show has moved about 75 miles west to Littlestown, Minnich says there are still plenty of opportunities for equestrians to participate in top quality shows at this historic venue. “We also started a new series this year—gaming shows—that are part barrel racing, pole bending and cutback. We put on our own fun fall series. This year we had the Mason Dixon, the Keystone Classic and the Sunday Hunter Series.” He says he would have liked to have one or two Hunter/Jumper shows next year, but until they’re sure the water problems are solved, they’re holding off. “I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep,” he says. “So we’re hoping for the year after next.”