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Image: Tricia Booker

The annual Rodeo Houston has taken its final bow for the year, but don’t put your cowboy boots away just yet. For two consecutive weeks equestrian riders from all over the country, Canada and Mexico have descended upon one of the oldest and most prestigious charity horse shows in the nation, The Pin Oak Charity Horse Show held at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Katy. No, you won’t find any concerts or carnival treats at this show, but you will see majestic show jumpers, jumping Olympic caliber jumps, hunters elegantly maneuvering a course that resembles the fox hunting days, and a unique blend of horse breeds including Ponies, Lusitanos, Andalusians and American Saddlebreds.

“I think everyone loves to come watch the Grand Prix’s,” says Lynn Walsh, President of Pin Oak Charity Horse Show. “A lot of people have never seen this type of event, they’re absolutely in awe sitting in the stands where the horses are jumping right in front of them. It’s like no other event in Houston, it’s totally unique and different.”

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Since the show’s inception in 1945 it has raised more than $7 million for its designated children’s charities. In fact, funds from the very first horse show were set aside to build what is now Texas Children’s Hospital. There’s a long heritage and connection with Pin Oak Charity Horse Show and Texas Children’s. Over the years, they’ve added other charities including Ronald McDonald Family Rooms at Texas Children’s Hospital and Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Family Alliance, the latter being an organization for families with kids at Texas Children’s. “We help parents with money for food, gas, parking and any other incidentals that a lot of people don’t realize that just add up when you have a critically sick child.”

There are events going on all day throughout the week at Pin Oak, leading up to the big crescendo of the USHJA International Hunter Derby and Grand Prix on the weekend. Spectators not only get to watch the action-packed fun of these horse and rider duos, but also get to venture around the show grounds and see the nearly 1,200 horses around the barns and in their stalls.

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For the second year in a row, Katy resident Molly Eaton has attended the event bringing her two kids Charlotte and Luke, who are five and three-years-old respectively. “Last year, when we came we just sat and watched,” Eaton says. “Today, we came early and walked around and met a lot of the girls that ride and they were telling us the different characteristics of the horses and how each one is different and what to watch for.” Though she was nervous to bring her kids at first for fear they might get in the way or be too loud, she quickly learned that kids are what the horse show is all about.

“I’m now going to call all my friends and say, ‘Ya’ll come out here, you’ve got to come see this.’ Because even if you watch horse shows on TV, you might not understand the scope of how big these horses are and how big the jumps are that they are jumping,” she adds.

At the end of the day the show prides itself on being more than a horse show. In addition to the two-week affair, Pin Oak hosts a fashion show and a skeet shoot during the year to raise money for their charity beneficiaries which collectively receive a quarter of a million dollars each year.

“When you read about this horse show and what their support does for these kids,” Eaton says, “it’s great that there are people out there who can support in different ways and this is a good way to do it.”

Thru April 3. $10. Great Southwest Equestrian Center, 2501 South Mason Rd. 713-621-6290. pinoak.org

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