Reaching the Heart of the Exhibitor at the Paso Robles Horse Park

In a world of fancy horses, fancy riding clothes and fancy horse shows . . . one easily gets the notion that show jumping is for the elite. However, that is not so at our local world class show jumping venue, the Paso Robles Horse Park. Here, it’s just a bit different. Here they are reaching the heart of the exhibitor.

Reaching the Heart of the Exhibitor

“We design our shows to be family-friendly experiences where everyone can enjoy horses and show jumping regardless of age or background,” says Amanda Diefenderfer, Park Director of the Paso Robles Horse Park.

This focus has earned them the recognition of being the number one (Gold Medal) equine competition venue in California and the number three (Bronze Medal) show jumping venue in all of North America, through an Equestrian Living magazine EQLiving Gold List 2019 readership poll. Paso Robles Horse Park puts SLO County on the map! How do they set themselves apart and draw in exhibitors?

What Sets the Paso Robles Horse Park Apart from other Top-Notch Horse Shows?

They reach the heart of the exhibitor. The main thrust is to create an environment which connects exhibitors with local amenities, each other and pushes for great sportsmanship while having fun at all levels of competition.

Reaching the heart of the exhibitor means creating a fun and competitive environment for the top-level rider as well as the schooling show rider.

“We intentionally hold our exhibitor parties, which are part of our top-level classic series, off site,” explains Amanda. Le Vigne Winery is that site, just five minutes from the Paso Robles Horse Park. This purposed action gets competitors into a uniquely Paso Robles setting. The surroundings provide the relaxed backdrop for trainers and competitors to simply enjoy one other as friends and fellow horse enthusiasts.

Prizes from the Local Area

First place prizes for the B Series and the Classic Series shows include custom wine bottles from Broken Earth Winery with labels horse enthusiast appreciate:

  • Show Mom Chardonnay
  • Ringside Rosé
  • Blue Ribbon Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Turf Club Cuvée

An official awards position is tasked with the job of making everyone feel like a champion; she is armed with a whole range of show prizes which are available for winners of all ages to choose from. The Paso Robles Horse Park looks for prizes and awards that will be useful to the competitor. Local tack shop, Riding Warehouse, sponsors a variety of saddle pads, coolers and horse supplies.

Prize Money at Every Level

The four Classic Series shows have money purses to attract top riders and horses from up and down the West Coast where over $100,000 in prize money is awarded each week. Yet, the big-stake jumper classes which draw in Grand Prix level horses and riders are not the only classes with prize money. A $10,000 Hunter Derby has become a popular event and there is prize money in lower level classes as well.

Fun and Unique Classes which Connect to Local Amenities

A variety of shows and classes connect exhibitors to local wineries while taking into consideration the needs of youth competitors. The Rosé in May Show features a Hack and Splash Hunter Hack class. Competitors are given a plastic glass with “wine” or for the youth, pink lemonade. The class is judged on execution of the judge’s pattern and the measurement of the liquid left inside the glass.

Exhibitor Lounge NOT Just for VIP

Many shows have an exhibitor lounge which is usually ringside and the best location for watching the show. These lounges are generally only for people who pay the higher price for the privilege of watching ringside throughout the show. The Paso Robles Horse Park has a different philosophy.

“We want our exhibitor lounge to be inviting and approachable to all,” remarked Amanda who continued, “We want everyone to be able to watch their friends. This is where we provide spouses, friends and fans a place to watch the show, do work on the Park wifi and cheer on their favorite riders.”

Making the exhibitor lounge accessible to all does not take away from its specialness. Paso Robles Horse Parks does sell out these ringside seats for special classes and events. When the seats are limited during the big classes, local wine and food is offered to enhance the watching experience.

A Family Affair

“Show jumping is driven by the passion for the sport. We are awed by the athleticism of the horse and riders. Our desire is to address the eliteness of  show jumping and bring the fun back into the sport,” explained Amanda regarding the overall focus of shows held at the Paso Robles Horse Park. This focus drives the staff to develop innovative ideas and offer things most horse shows don’t.

Not Just Chasing the Blue Ribbon

“We realize horses enhance more wholesome relationships in life,” expresses Amanda. “We back the value horses provide by helping kids learn commitment and responsibility.”

Making a show at the Horse Park a family affair brings in a whole new level of opportunity to reach the heart of the exhibitor. “We realize horses enhance more wholesome relationships in life,” expresses Amanda. “We back the value horses provide by helping kids learn commitment and responsibility.” Yes, we probably all stand in agreement with her. All of us as equestrians know how much our horses need our care. They force us all to put their needs first.

Gold Star Program

All of this results in a better focus than simply chasing the blue ribbon. To underscore the importance of how we treat one another and our horses the Paso Robles Horse Park initiated the Gold Star Program at their Schooling Show Series.

“We looked for a way to reward good behavior,” explained Amanda. Using horses as the vehicle to enhance good sportsmanship, the Gold Star Program allows any Paso Robles Horse Park staff to encourage exhibitor’s engaging in an act of good with an actual gold star that also serves as an entry for their barn to win the end-of-show gift basket of fun. “This incentive drives the trainers to get their students to watch their actions and be purposeful in doing good deeds,” remarked Amanda. This in turn underlines the overall vision that showing at the Paso Robles Horse Park is more than simply chasing blue ribbons.

Where Do the Competitors Come From?

The bulk of the competitors come from up and down the West Coast extending from Washington to California. Since it’s located in the middle of California the show is accessible from both Northern and Southern California residents. It has become the one special destination horse show of the year on many competitor’s calendars.

Where Do Competitors Stay?

There are a variety of lodging options starting with 28 RV spots on-site. Luv 2 Camp can even set up one of their travel trailers on-site or within two nearby RV parks, Wine Country RV and Cavo Robles Resort. Paso Robles Horse Park has special rate agreements with several local hotels: Best Western Plus Black Oak, Adelaide Inn, Courtyard Marriott Paso Robles, and Allegretto Vineyard Resort. All these lodging options add to the destination horse show experience one gets at the Paso Robles Horse Park


We congratulate Paso Robles Horse Park for achieving the Gold Medal standard as the top equine competition venue in California along with the Bronze Medal standard in all of North America. Amanda concluded her remarks regarding the awards with, “When I look at the company we are among, I am amazed. It’s so special.”

We can all learn a thing a two from what the Paso Robles Horse Park is doing among us as well. Go reach the hearts of those around you.

All photos credit: Alden Corrigan Media


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Former Pony Clubber, Eventer and Dressage rider who balanced training and showing with getting a college degree (from Cal Poly SLO), becoming a wife and raising a family.

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