This time of year brings the local show season, hosted by several facilities with indoor arenas. There are shows at Frying Pan Park, Morven Park and Rafeen Farm almost every weekend throughout the winter. These shows offer hunters and jumpers on different dates, giving everyone a choice of divisions in which to compete.

At a recent jumper show at Herndon's Frying Pan Park, there were so many entries in each class that the show went on well into the evening. There were horses competing that were preparing to head to Florida, young horses at their first show, adults on schoolmasters and kids on ponies everywhere.

Frying Pan Park is one of my favorite places to take horses this time of year. As long as the weather is favorable, the facility can serve many purposes. There are three outdoor bluestone arenas for warmups before classes; each area has great footing. If riders are bored between classes, the cross-country course behind the arena is very inviting.

The only problem with Frying Pan is that when the ground is frozen, there is no indoor warmup area. On such occasions, competitors have been allowed to get in a few practice jumps in the arena before starting their course. Riders are also permitted to bring horses into the arena before the show to have a look around.

There is no better place for a young horse to see and hear the sights of a competition than at Frying Pan. The selection of outdoor arenas allows a rider to choose where he wants to warmup. For the unruffled horse, the busyness of the warmup area by the indoor arena is a good place to get the adrenaline flowing.

For a youngster in need of a quiet area without jumps, the lower ring is a great place to be near enough to hear the loudspeakers but with few horses around. For the individual who needs complete privacy and a quieter setting, the upper arena is the place to be, with several jumps available and very few fellow competitors.

When a horse enters the arena at Frying Pan for the first time, it is usually bug-eyed by the sight and very distracted on course. With bleachers on one side and the show office, restrooms and announcer's stand on the other, the place is always busy. Often, these green horses start the day frantically trying to spin and exit the arena.

But by the end of the day, they're standing quietly with a leg cocked, unfazed by the arena and completely relaxed in the atmosphere. It is almost guaranteed that they will never experience a more active and spooky arena for the rest of their lives.

Morning hours at all of the area shows are dedicated to competitors looking for smaller jumps.

The "puddle jumper" division is always a success, with fences not exceeding 2 1/2 feet. Children on outrageously fast ponies, who fearlessly blaze around the courses, definitely dominate these classes. As the day wears on, the bigger the size of the jumps, the smaller the number of entries shown in each class.

Entry forms for most local shows can be found at area tack stores. Reasonable entry fees are a plus, as are the good concession stands. For a fun and relaxed day on a horse with any amount of show mileage, the local indoor show circuit is highly recommended.

Questions, comments or suggestions? E-mail Julie Gomena at jagomena@crosslink.net