A Community Favorite

In the tiny Florida hamlet of Sparr, one thing is certain: Once a month, trailers will roll into the grounds behind the Sparr United Methodist Church and horses of all breeds and colors will be unloaded, groomed and readied for competition.

The Sparr UMC Horse Show takes place the second Saturday of every month except December and has been a fixture in Marion Couny’s horse community for nearly half a century. The show starts at 9am and runs throughout the day until all 49 classes are completed. 

The morning begins with halter classes, followed by English classes; Western classes commence after the lunch break.

“We’re open to all breeds and have a good mix of riders of all ages competing,” says show manager Diane Van Fossen, who’s been running the event since 2003.

Riders in three categories: 10 and under, juniors age 11 to 18 and adults (18 and up) compete for ribbons and trophies, including a high-point trophy awarded at the end of the day for the most points in that show. A year-end high point trophy is also presented at the end of the year.

Liz Long and her 13-year-old Arab gelding Thymexx (pronounced “Timex”), have been High Point English Senior for the last three years.

Liz showed at the Sparr UMC Horse Show back in the mid-1980s before moving to Orlando. After she moved back to Marion County, she resumed showing there in 2013, albeit with a different horse.

“My horse had never been in a show ring until I started showing him at age 8. It’s a wonderful schooling show, both for horses and young riders,” she notes. “The entry fees aren’t prohibitive, and it helps your horse get used to the show atmosphere. We have a wide variety of quality judges, so this gets you used to what different judges may or may not be looking for.”

Long points out that many of the judges will give input to the contestants, especially the junior riders, which helps them the next time they compete.

“It’s also a good family atmosphere at the show,” Long adds. “We start out with “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a prayer, and the church has a chuck wagon lunch.”

Proceeds from lunch purchases allow the church women to assist foreign and local mission projects.

The Sparr UMC Horse Show welcomes riders of all skill levels to compete in a small yet professional venue with a family-friendly environment.

Learn more › Sparr United Methodist Church Horse Show › 13100 NE Jacksonville Road, Sparr › (352) 216-8892 › facebook.com/sparrhorseshow

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