The 92nd Royal Horse Show opened tonight at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, and the packed house was treated a full slate of equestrian excitement. From the rocking excitement of Horseware Indoor Eventing and the Shetland Pony Grand National races, to the nail-biting hairpin turns of the Greenhawk Canadian Show Jumping Championships and the majestic beauty of the heavy horse four-horse hitches, visitors experienced the full range of what makes The Royal Horse Show uniquely special.
Ten-time Olympian Ian Millar of Perth, Ontario, captured the opening round of the Greenhawk Canadian Show Jumping Championships with Star Power, demonstrating he still has the keen edge (and perhaps the wisdom which only comes with experience) and quick wits to get the job done.
The congested north end of the arena proved the undoing of many a rider, with a left turn out of the in-gate to a skinny fence at jump eight followed by a right turn to an oxer at nine and then past the in-gate again to the combination at ten a/b… As one commentator said, it was likely that many of the riders would like to take fence eight and just “burn it” because it toppled so frequently tonight.
Millar cleared eight and nine fine, but found a path to ten which was obviously not on the original plan, resulting in some ‘enthusiastic encouragement’ of his mount Star Power.
“Through the windshield it wasn’t a pretty sight!” joked Millar following the ribbon ceremony. “What ended up happening was a “point of no return”. Once I had the pace I had, and the track I had, it was too late to change my mind. Although what I had was not exactly ideal – it was too late to change it and I was committed and the only move was a decisive forward. Many riders would hesitate for a split second at that moment, and if you do you’re cooked. You’ve got to go. So that’s what I did and fortunately Star Power rose to the occasion.”
Runner-up Erynn Ballard of Tottenham, ON, found out just days ago she had officially qualified for the prestigious international division next week, rather than having to qualify via the Canadian Championships.
“I just really don’t think it could have gone any better,” said Ballard. “Keean (White) said to me before I went in the ring – ‘Really, you have nothing to lose.’ Since I’m already qualified for next week’s international division, at this point the pressure was off. Tonight was a bit like icing. It was relaxed, I got to ride the way I wanted to ride, I got to be competitive, because if I had a silly mistake, it didn’t matter. He’s the kind of horse that likes the attention of the crowd and the lights and all the energy.”
Clean rounds tomorrow will be of the utmost importance however, as the scoring format means Millar will start on a score of zero, and fractions of points mean penalties for rails suddenly have the potential to become very expensive.
Greenhawk Canadian Show Jumping Championships Round One
Rider / Horse / Hometown / Time
1. Ian Millar / Star Power / Perth, ON / 65.18
2. Erynn Ballard / Appy Cara / Tottenham, ON / 65.55
3. Jaclyn Duff / Pater Noster / Edmonton, AB / 68.86
4. Beth Underhill / Viggo / Schomberg, ON / 69.53
5. Keean White / For Freedom Z / Rockwood, ON / 69.66
Horseware Indoor Eventing
Canada’s Tik Maynard took the first round of Horseware Indoor Eventing, riding Dutch Times to almost the same line Millar did at the north end of the arena over an entirely different course, edging out second placed Colleen Loach by just tenths of a second.
The combination of hedges, brush jumps and the bank/drop, mixed with maximum height stadium jumps tested accuracy, carefulness and bravery of horse and rider tonight over the course designed by Canadian eventing team coach, Clayton Fredericks.
“I felt like I was all over the place tonight,” said Maynard. “When I walked the course when they set it up – it was HUGE! I wondered if I should stay with my plan to cut the corner on the turn into the bank, but I knew my horse was pretty quick and careful with his feet, and in the end it rode really nicely. A couple of lines didn’t ride as well as I thought they would, but my horse is so awesome that I just let him do his thing. The plan was to be fairly aggressive to the turn into the bank. He’s got a big stride and can sometimes be a little slower over the jumps so my plan was to really get the turns as quick as possible.”
Horseware Indoor Eventing Round One
1. Tik Maynard / Dutch Times / Vancouver, BC / 56.48
2. Colleen Loach / FreeSpirit / Dunham, QC / 56.88
3. Holly Jacks-Smither / More Inspiration / Orangeville, ON / 60.69
4. Peter Barry / Kilrodan Abbott / Dunham, QC / 61.88
5. Waylon Roberts / Faolan / Port Perry, ON / 63.67
The second and final rounds of both the Greenhawk Canadian Show Jumping Championships and Horseware Indoor Eventing wrap up tomorrow night in The Royal Horse Show, where features will include an encore of the Shetland Pony Grand National Racing as well as a preview of Sunday’s Ontario Toyota Dealers Royal Rodeo.
About the Royal Horse Show and 92nd Royal Agricultural Winter Fair ~ The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is the world’s largest combined indoor agricultural and equestrian show. This year, The 92nd Royal Agricultural Winter Fair runs November 7-16, 2014 in the Direct Energy Centre and Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto. The Royal Horse Show CSI4*-W is just one of a handful of ‘four-star’ competitions in North America and was voted the number one indoor horse show in North America by the North American Riders Group. To purchase tickets, request media accreditation, view competition schedules, LIVE webcasting, and for complete results please visit www.royalfair.org.