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Horse show offers tradition, growth
By Kaitlyn Byrne
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – This year’s Bulldog Classic American Quarter Horse Association Show brought in a larger crowd than in previous years while continuing a tradition that has lasted more than 50 years.
The Bulldog Classic AQHA show is sponsored by Mississippi State University and held at the Mississippi Horse Park in Starkville. It is the oldest quarter horse show in Mississippi. Mary Hopkins, a rancher and horseback riding instructor in Vicksburg, played an instrumental role in starting the show in the early 1960s.
Hopkins said horses have been her passion ever since she was a child, so she has spent her life helping children and adults find opportunities to work with horses. In addition to helping develop the MSU Bulldog Class AQHA Show, Hopkins also is largely responsible for the creation of 4-H horse programs in Mississippi.
“In 1960, Mississippi State was looking for someone to start a 4-H horse program for children, because up until then, there weren’t any 4-H horse programs in the state,” Hopkins said. “So I told them I would do it if they let the kids show unregistered horses. A lot of families can’t afford registered horses, so allowing unregistered horses really allowed a lot more kids to be able to participate in the shows.”
Hopkins attended this year’s show and was pleased with the increased participation.
“This show is so important to me,” Hopkins said. “I was here in the beginning when the show first started, so it’s really rewarding to see it is still growing.”
This year’s increased participation was due largely to designating a permanent show manager and using a new price system for entries.
In the past, students have acted as show managers, but this year Bricklee Miller, facilities manager at the horse park, took over the job.
Terry Kiser, department head of MSU’s Animal and Dairy Sciences, said having a permanent manager has been a great benefit to the AQHA Show.
“We wanted to provide some continuity to avoid a constant change as students graduated and new students took over,” Kiser said. “With Bricklee as show manager, the students get an opportunity to learn under her guidance, and the show doesn’t have constant changes in management.”
Miller said fees for the show are usually around $300, but this year the show had one flat fee of $125.
“By lowering the fee, we tripled the numbers,” Miller said. “It’s a win-win for everyone, and people can afford to bring more horses.”
Susan Cain, president of the Mississippi Quarter Horse Association, said she thinks the new pricing system has increased enthusiasm for the show.
“Having just one flat fee is great, especially when you have several horses to show,” Cain said. “I think everyone loves the new creative pricing idea.”
In addition to reduced show fees, this year participants could preregister online using a credit card.
“We had more people preregister this year than the total number of participants from last year,” Miller said. “The online registration option was a big help.”
Hopkins enjoys seeing the continued results of the work she put into developing horse shows decades ago.
“I spent many years praying this show and 4-H shows would grow,” Hopkins said. “It makes me so happy to see this many people here this year. It’s such a blessing.”