There’s good news for breeders and owners whose hopes to show their three-year-old horses in the 2021 Governor General’s and Lieutenant General’s Cup classes at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair were dashed with July’s announcement that the fair was cancelled for the second year in a row due to the pandemic. However, the 2021 Cup classes will go ahead – in a different month, at a different venue.

Two Cup qualifiers are held each year in Ontario, hosted by the Canadian Sport Horse Association, to determine which horses in each class will proceed to the Royal. This year the Cups will be awarded at the end of the second qualifier at the Royal Canadian Riding Academy in Newmarket to the two horses with the highest combined scores from both qualifiers. The first Cup qualifier on September 12 and the second on October 10 are open to Canadian-bred registered horses suited to hunter, jumper, dressage or eventing disciplines. Participation is not limited to Canadian Sport Horses. Both qualifiers will have two judges.

CSHA president Michael Ward says when his association learned this year’s Royal would not go ahead, they explored how they could offer the Cup classes and how to accommodate owners of four-year-old horses who missed the opportunity to show in 2020 Cup classes.

Ward says breeders and owners of potential Cup horses put significant time and effort preparing their animals – often from birth – and it is a major disappointment if they aren’t able to show. Although the pandemic didn’t make it feasible for the Royal to proceed, its management supported the CSHA’s proposal to offer an alternative Cup class format.

“We’re lucky enough to have the Royal provide some sponsorship to us,” says Ward. “They are providing ribbons for both dates for the top 10 horses in each class, providing coolers and keeper plates for the and will be bringing the Cups to the second qualifier to present to the winners.”

To capture some of the prestige of the event, the Royal is supplying ring boards to be placed around the perimeter of the RCRA arena. “Although not able to host a live event in 2021, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair recognizes the contribution, risks and hard work that Canadian breeders undertake each and every day in the pursuit of breeding sport horses for excellence in and out of the competition ring,” said Charlie Johnstone, CEO of the RAWF. “This is why we are so pleased to be able to support our breed associations that were able to secure venues to safely host a live event in 2021. Although nothing can take the place of the atmosphere in the Coca-Cola Coliseum at the Royal Horse Show, we are excited to help recognize and promote the quality work of our breeders and their associations and are proud of their efforts in these trying times.”

The Governor General’s class is in-hand and judged 50 per cent on movement and 50 per cent on conformation and type. The Lieutenant Governor’s Cup is judged under saddle, based 60 per cent on movement and 40 per cent on conformation and type.

A Canadian Showcase class for four-year-old registered Canadian-bred horses will be held for those that may have missed out on the Cup classes last year. The horses will hack under saddle, then be stripped of tack and modelled in the same format as the Lieutenant Governor’s Cup.

Judges for the first qualifier will be Bob Henselwood, well-known judge, trainer and breeder and co-owner of Juniper Farms, where he and partner Jill Henselwood have produced many international jumpers. Joining him will be German Grand Prix jumper rider Marion Ostmeyer who is now based in Canada where she competes, trains horses and teaches riders.

The second qualifier judges will be Robyn Baechler, an Equine Canada senior hunter, hack and equitation judge and United States Equestrian Federation senior hunter and equitation judge, and Gay-Ellen Dennis, an FEI Level 2 jumping judge.

“We have had a lot of people express thanks for the Cups going ahead and it seems people are pretty interested,” says Ward.

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