Toronto, ON (Nov 14) – It was a full day of equine events at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair (day 9) with competitions running from 7:30 am to 11:00 pm.

As the sun was rising the Governor General and Lt. Governor’s Cup classes were kicking off, followed by a whole host of cart and driving classes.

Roberto Teran (COL) and Farina

Roberto Teran (COL) and Farina

The afternoon horse show kicked off with a crowd favorite, the $15,000 Canine-Equine Challenge, which pairs an international horse and rider team with a SuperDog in an energetic, timed race. For the riders, the course was a 11 fence timed round designed by England’s Richard Jeffery. The height was set at 1.40m and involved several tight turns and rollbacks.

For the SuperDogs the center of the ring held a complex obstacle course they had to navigate, with tunnels, ramps, and jumps. Dogs and handlers had the opportunity to add extra rails to the final canine fence, for a chance to shave some time off their total team score. But if they added a rail and took it down, time would be added.

Faults incurred by riders were converted to additional time, and the rider and dog duo that posed the fastest time would be the champions. This race was about precision’ speed, and most of all … a bit of good old family fun.

Crowds cheered as each rider entered the ring, as they took the fences clear, and as their canine partners raced against the clock, trying for that record time. There were a total of 11 rider and canine competitors in the field.

In the end Ireland’s Conor Swail, aboard the 10 year old Irish Sport Horse gelding Carneyhaugh Manx, won top team prize. Their Canine SuperDog partner was Gemma. Canada’s Jonathon Millar, aboard the 12 year old bay Oldenburg gelding Baranus, took second in the team awards.

Here’s the breakdown of the top 5 placing (rider only scores):

  1. Conor Swail
  2. Roberto Teran
  3. Leslie Howard
  4. Sharn Wordley
  5. Jonathon Millar

Canadian riders Erynn Ballard, Mac Cone, Vanessa Mannix, and Christian Sorenson finished 8th, 9th, and 7th (respectively). 

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Reed Kessler (USA) and Cylana on Wednesday night during the Longines FEI World Cup

Reed Kessler (USA) and Cylana on Wednesday night during the Longines FEI World Cup

As always the evening edition of the Royal Horse Show was a sold out performance, the Ricoh packed wall to wall with eager spectators. The field was a total of 20 riders, many of whom had been competing all week at the Fair. The course was a total 13 jumps, with a height set at 1.60m, designed by England’s Richard Jeffery. Time allowed was 76.00 seconds. 

Unlike the “WESTON” Canadian Open and the Longines FEI World Cup classes earlier in the week,  the first three riders in the field went clear, guaranteeing and intense evening of competition (and a jump-off to end the night). While rails ultimately started to fall, as they tend to do, the number of clear rounds quickly climbed — and those with faults were significantly less than we’ve seen in previous nights of competition.

In total, by the end of the round, 8 riders went clear and into the jump-off, which consisted of 8 fences and a time allowed of 47 seconds.

The clear rounds continued into the jump-off and it quickly became a speed competition where mere seconds counted. Riders rode quickly, but precisely, navigating challenging inside turns and combinations to shave off as much time as possible. In the end, American rider McLain Ward took the top prize with HH Azur, a 9 year old bay mare owned by Francois Mathy and Double H Farm. This was McLain’s second major win, as he also took home the top prize in Wednesday night’s Longines FEI World Cup Toronto. Coming in close second, with only a 1.01 second difference in time, was Reed Kessler aboard the 13 year old chestnut mare Cylana.

The top 5 in the Big Ben Challenge were:

  1. McLain Ward (USA) and HH Azur, 0 faults / 40.43 sec
  2. Reed Kessler (USA) and Cylana, 0 faults / 41.44 sec
  3. Olivier Philippaerts (BEL) and H&M Legend of Love, 0 faults / 42.03 sec
  4. Georgina Bloomberg (USA) and Caleno 3, 0 faults / 45.66 sec
  5. Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) and H&M Harley VD Bisschop, 4 faults / 41.93 sec

Canadian riders Jonathon Millar, Erynn Ballard, Christian Sorenson, Mac Cone, Lisa Carlsen, and Ian Millar, placed 6th, 9th,  12th, 16th, 18th, and 19th (respectively)

American riders Beezie Madden, Laura Kraut, Leslie Howard, and Charlie Jacobs, placed 7th, 10th, 11th,  and 15th (respectively).

The Royal Championship Six-Horse Hitch was also crowned during the evening horse show, and went to the All Star Farms hitch owned by Doyle Dingman and the Nick Wagner Families, and driven by Ross Honsberger.

Overall it was another great year of competition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair’s Royal Horse Show. Riders were tested, rails were felled, and dreams were realized for many riders, young and old alike. While the fair continues to be open today (Sunday), this ends our coverage of events at the fair for 2015. Until next year!

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