By Kim MacMillan/MacMillan Photography & Media Services
All photos by Shelley Higgins/Copyright MacMillan Photography
November in Toronto is synonymous with the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. In its 93rd renewal in 2015, the grand, expansive event fills the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition with the sights and sounds of a state fair and an international horse show all rolled into one. Livestock, fair food, cooking demonstrations, a convention center filled with shopping, and horses ranging from diminutive Welsh Ponies, hunters and jumpers, dressage and carriage horses to enormous draft breeds are all part of the excitement.
The “Royal” is one of the largest indoor agricultural exhibitions in the world and, in my mind anyway, is one of the top two Canadian horse shows, sharing the honor only with Spruce Meadows. The first weekend of the Royal Horse Show included the crowning of the $100,000 Greenhawk Canadian Show Jumping Champion and the fast-paced indoor eventing competition which is always a crowd favorite.
To win the Greenhawk Canadian Jumper Championship Jill Henselwood, Oxford Mills, ON, and Farfelu du Printemps jumped clear in the two initial rounds, then bested the others in a six-way jump-off to take the title. They took down only one rail in the jump-off but were fastest around the track to top the division.
Farfelu du Printemps is a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Action Breaker x Volume vd Gasthoeve) owned by John and Julie Madigan. Henselwood said she found in him in Switzerland earlier this year for her student Julia Madigan. Madigan has handed the ride to Henselwood while she focuses on her studies at Queen’s University. He’s smart, clever, knows where the jumps are, and is naturally fast. As soon as we started to jump he could sense from me that it was serious. He gave good efforts,” said Henselwood. “For this horse to get this title really means something in his resume, and starts to identify him as a top horse for Canada.”
The jumper course designer for this year’s Royal is Richard Jeffery of Bournemouth, Dorset, Great Britain. Reserve in the Greenhawk Canadian Championships went to veteran rider Mac Cone, 63, King City, ON, riding Gasper van den Doorn for owner Chadburn Holdings, Inc. and third went to Lisa Carlsen, 50, of Okotoks, AB, aboard Worlds Judgement for owners WJ Partners.
Also in the Royal jumper arena last weekend, two athletes from Quebec finished first and second in the Jump Canada National Talent Squad Championships presented by Uplands Charitable Foundation. Isabelle Lapierre, Breakeyville, QC, and Cescha M, an eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Diamant de Semilly x Hera XXIV) owned by Ecuries de la Chaudiere, topped both phases of competition over a starting field of 16. Lapierre, 36, has been riding Cescha M for the three years. Finishing in the reserve spot in the Jump Canada Talent Squad division was Billie Derouet, Bromont, QC, aboard her own Bonaparte VP Wisebecq.
“She will try every time. Even when I make a mistake, she’s there, and if she makes a mistake, she knows I’ll be there. We’re a good team. She’s a young horse. They need mileage in the ring before doing the big classes. This is a good class for young riders and also for riders like me trying to produce young horses,” said Lapierre of her mare.
In the $20,000 Horseware Indoor Eventing Challenge, Waylon Roberts, 27, Port Perry, ON, won his eighth straight Royal title. This year his partner over the simulated cross-country fences was a mare named West River. The pair was foot perfect over the two nights of competition, jumping the course designed by Captain Mark Phillips of Great Britain.
Roberts, who represented Canada on their 2015 Pan American Games team, is the son of Advanced level event rider Ian Roberts and Kelly Plitz. He commented on the choice of riding West River in the Indoor Challenge class, “It takes a handy horse, one that’s going to be really obedient for the tight turns and the quick speed. That’s exactly what West River is. She’s not too big and she’s really handy.”
Finishing second in the Horseware Indoor Challenge was U.S. rider Buck Davidson riding Wundermaske. Davidson, who was riding at his first Royal Winter Fair, and Wundermaske were also clear around both courses, but had a slightly slower time to take the reserve spot.
Meanwhile other equestrian events going on the first four days of the Royal included hunter classes and a hunter derby, draft horse breed and hitch classes, Standardbred and Hackney Horse and Pony classes, Welsh Pony and Roadster Pony classes and a rodeo. Wednesday night the Royal hosts a Longines World Cup Jumper class and Thursday is the Royal Dressage Invitational Dressage Cup.
Coming up next weekend at the Royal are the Thoroughbred and Canadian Sport Horse breed show, the Governor General and Lieutenant Governor Cup classes for three-year-old sport horses, Arabian native costume classes, the Green Meadows antique coaching classes, the Weston Open Canadian International Jumper class and the Big Ben Jumper Challenge. Stay tuned for more photos and news from the Royal Winter Fair. Find the results at http://royal.showmanagementsystem.com/.
For more information on the Royal Horse Show visit http://www.royalfair.org/horse-show.