By Raiza Giorgi

Making it through her first horse show was the only thing on Emily Butner’s mind, and she was thrilled that she and her horse did as well. 

“I am very new to this, and my horse has only been under the saddle for six months,” Butner said. “I am so proud of how he did and I am so thankful to the organizers for putting this on because it was so fun.”

Photo by Raiza Giorgi
Emily Butner, of Orcutt, competed in her first show along with her horse Lazy K Peppy Links at the SYV Equestrian Association Ranch Horse Saddle Series in February.

Butner, along with many other local riders competed at the Inaugural Santa Ynez Valley Equestrian Association Ranch Horse Saddle Series on Feb. 29. This show was so well received that entries were capped a month in advance, with a waiting list. 

“We wanted to bring back the shows we remember from childhood,” said organizer Lisa Novatt. “I have been riding for years and have always loved doing versatility and competing.” 

Show Committee co-chairs included Novatt, Karyn Stevens, Lisa Lyons and Nancy Hunsicker, who all intended this event to be a net positive fundraiser for the Santa Ynez Valley Equestrian Center facility, but beyond that, strongly desired to make this Saddle Series a unique event and bring back the glory days of showing to the Santa Ynez Valley.

The Saddle Series is offering Outstanding Day as well as Series High Point prizes, plus the competition will be suspenseful and interesting right down to the very end of the last day of the series in September. The show in February was the first of three events that will have an overall winner at the end. To qualify, riders must compete in at least two of the three events. 

“We’re putting the classes and elements together in what I’m pretty sure is a unique format,” Hunsicker said. “We’ve added a reining section, and we’re not linking in with any association, so we have total freedom to be creative and try new things.” 

She added each show will offer Day High Point Buckles along with Series Cumulative High Point Champion and Reserve Buckles, but, in addition, the Series Cumulative Top 4 in each division Open, Amateur, Beginner will ride in a Clean Slate Finals pattern run, at the end of the last show, which will have elements of reining, ranch riding and trail included. Open and Amateur will each ride for a beautiful Tom Block saddle, and the Beginners will ride for a nice bridle (headstall, bit and reins), plus Championship Rose Garlands. 

Photo by Raiza Giorgi
“I have been riding for years and have always loved doing versatility and competing,” said organizer Lisa Novatt.

“Our goal is to draw a bigger crowd with each show and make the Final Show really special,” Hunsicker said. “It’s such a production for many of us to get out of town to show, so we thought ‘why not have a great show in our own backyard?’” 

Winners from the first show in February were High Point Beginner Tom Crist riding Pic by Elvis; High Point Amateur Barb Crist, riding This Cats a Keeper; and the High Point Open was Jennifer Ray, riding General Relativity. 

The next show in the Series will be May 16 with the Final Show and Shoot Out scheduled for September 26. 

Funds raised will all go towards the Santa Ynez Valley Equestrian Center, which is also home to the SYV Therapeutic Riding Program, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Mounted Unit and the local 4-H program meetings.

For more information on the Series as well as the Equestrian Center, please visit or find them on Facebook.