My Royal Experience 2016

  It's that time of year again. It's when the weather gets colder, we start riding indoors and the show season comes to an end. It's also the time of the year when you can hear the whispers of excitement from equestrians in the Toronto area and beyond because they all know one thing...

Picture from:

http://www.royalfair.org/

  ...The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is here!

  I was lucky enough to be able to visit the fair once again this year. This has been my third year and it has yet to disappoint me. There is just something so special about the Royal. If you've never been and you have the chance to be in the Toronto area in November, you should definitely go.

  All three years, I've visited on the Wednesday when the Longines FEI World Cup is the featured competition. I guess you can say that I have a soft spot for show jumping. It's great to be able to see the top end of the sport competing against each other live. Those of us who call the Toronto area our home are very lucky to have the opportunity to witness such great competition in our own backyards.

  So, we woke up early and hit the road. We arrived at the Exhibition Place just before 10. We wandered through the vendors while they were getting ready for the day and stopped whenever something caught our eye.

  We made notes of the times of the events that we wanted to visit so that we didn't miss a thing. We watched the President's Choice Superdogs and a sheep herding demonstration in the Animal Theatre ring.

Pure Horse Sense Blog- Sheep herding demo @ the royal winter fair

Picture taken by me

  Of course, we also watched many horse competitions. We enjoyed watching anything from the Clydesdale Unicorn Hitch to the McKee Family International Jumper Competition. Sadly, during the McKee competition, McLain Ward knocked down a jump which took him out of the winners' circle. This was the first time that I wasn't going to see McLain winning both the McKee and the FEI World Cup since I've been attending the Royal. This time, it was Shane Sweetnam on Cobalt that brought home first place in the afternoon competition.

Pure Horse Sense Blog- McLain Ward jumping at the royal winter fair

Picture taken by me

  Whenever we had a break between watching the demonstrations and the competitions, we were visiting the horses in the Horse Palace, petting the sheep or walking through the rows and rows of cows.

  Before we knew it, it was already 7 pm which meant it was almost time for the evening's paid events. We took out our tickets, got out hands stamped and were directed to our assigned seats. What I enjoy about the evening shows is that you don't just watch the FEI international show jumping competition, but they also showcase other competitions in the equine world too.

  They started with the Belgian Six Horse Hitch, then the Single Road Horse to Bike Championship, next was the Four in Hand Coaching Class Performance and finally the Single Harness Pony Open. All of these competitions are amazing to watch. Though I personally don't know exactly what the judge is looking for, I can appreciate the time and dedication these people have for their passion.

Pure Horse Sense Blog- Belgian Six Horse Hitch at the royal winter fair

Picture taken by me

Pure Horse Sense Blog- Four in hand coaching class at the royal winter fair

Picture taken by me

Pure Horse Sense Blog- Single Road Horse to Bike Championship at the royal winter fair

Picture taken by me

  Now along with watching these competitions, the Royal also showcases an equine performance of some sort for the evening. This year, it was a six horse polo match (USA vs Canada). As someone who has always wanted to watch and try polo, this was really exciting. Seeing these riders direct their horses with speed and precision as well as hitting a ball is no easy task. Especially when the ring is the size of a hockey rink. I will admit, it was a little crazy because the ball was flying into the audience a few times, but it was also very entertaining. You can bet that I now, more then ever, want to see a real polo match one day.

Pure Horse Sense Blog- Canada vs USA polo match at the royal winter fair

Picture taken by me

  Then came the main event. The jumps were set and the riders walked the course. We watched many of my favourite riders count their distances while they made their way around the ring. Before we knew it, the first rider, Jonathon Millar on Bonzay, was in the ring. We watched and cheered on each rider all while crossing our fingers that at least two people would go clear.

The first to go clear was Nick Skelton on Big Star. It didn't take long for us to get the second clear as the next one in the ring, Mac Cone on Gasper Van Den Doorn, did just that. So, we were guaranteed a jump-off. Now, we just didn't know how many there would be. In the end, there were five total; Kent Farrington on Creedance, Shane Sweetnam on Chaqui Z and defending champion McLain Ward on HH Azur.

Pure Horse Sense Blog- Mac Cone at the royal winter fair

Picture taken by me

  So, the jump-off track was set. The first two; Mac Cone and Nick Skelton both didn't go clear. Next in the ring was Kent Farrington. You could feel the tension in the air as the audience knew that this man knows his way around a jump-off course. With every clear jump, Farrington went faster and cut more and more corners. The audience got more and more anxious while they silently cheered him on and held their breath. He was now at the home stretch. He jumped the last oxer and the crowd cheered loudly as he landed on the ground quickly followed by a disappointed sigh as the rail fell out of its cups.

  Next in the ring was of course McLain Ward. You could tell on his face that he was confident. I'm sure his game plan had just switched to his favour. He didn't have to try and beat Kent Farrington's amazingly fast time anymore. All he had to do was stay accurate and go clear. And he did just that. Azur seemed to coast through the course with ease. Now the only one who could beat Ward was Shane Sweetnam. Unfortunately, he too knocked a pole which gave McLain Ward his first place once again.

  I won't say that I'm disappointed. It was an amazing night of show jumping with many of my favourite riders that I look up to; McLain Ward also being one of them. What I will say is that I really enjoyed watching Kent Farrington ride the way he's known for. I'll be honest, I think that if that rail would have stayed in its cups that Azur wouldn't have been able to beat Creedance's time.

Pure Horse Sense Blog | McLain Ward and HH Azur at the royal winter fair

Picture taken by me

  But that's show jumping for you. Anything can happen right down to the last second.

  I hope you enjoyed reading about my experiences at the Royal this year. If you'd like to read more about the Longines FEI World Cup's placings, winnings and order of go (or the other results of yesterday's horse competitions), you can click this link here.

  Also, FEI's YouTube channel has interviews with Mac ConeNick SkeltonMcLain Ward and Kent Farrington after the jump off. If you're interested, click on their names and it'll take you to their videos. They even show you parts of their jump-off ride.

  Until next time, happy riding!

  More Pictures:

Pure Horse Sense Blog- Belgian Six Horse Hitch at the royal winter fair

Picture taken by me

Pure Horse Sense Blog- Ian Millar at the royal winter fair

Picture taken by me

Pure Horse Sense Blog- Tiffany Foster at the royal winter fair

Picture taken by me

My Royal Experience 2015

  It's that time of year again in Toronto. The time of year when farm animals take over the Exhibition Place. From November 6 to 15, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is back!

Pure Horse Sense Blog- Ricoh Coliseum at the RAWF

Photographed by me

  I was able to spend the whole day at the fair yesterday (from 10 am to 11 pm). It was a long day, but we had a lot of fun.

  We started our morning by visiting the horses in the two level stable called the Horse Palace. We said hello to the draft horses, ponies and sport horses. The barn was still quiet as all of the fair goers were just starting to arrive.

Pure Horse Sense Blog- Horse Palace Overlooking the Warm-Up Ring at the RAWF

Photographed by me

  At about 10:30, we wandered over to the Remembrance Day ceremony. It was great to see so many people attend it and show their appreciation for those who serve our countries, especially when there is so much to do at the fair.

  We spent the rest of our time walking from venue to venue to try to watch as many events as possible. For the horse shows at the Ricoh Coliseum, we watched the CET National Medal Finals Flat and Gymnastics Phase and the McKee Family International Jumpers. At the animal theatre, we watched the President's Choice Super Dogs and the Medieval Times. At the educational centre, we learned how to shear a sheep properly. All of these shows were fantastic to watch and kept us entertained throughout the day.

Pure Horse Sense Blog- CET National Medal Finals Flat and Gymnastics Phase at the RAWF

Photographed by me

Pure Horse Sense Blog- Medieval Times at the RAWF

Photographed by me

  Time flew by and before we knew it, it was 4 pm. With our stomachs growling, we headed over to the food court. We ate various fair foods including an Oreo funnel cake that we shared. Sure, what we chose to eat wasn't healthy. But we figured that, since the fair only comes once a year, we might as well enjoy it. Right?

Pure Horse Sense Blog- Oreo Funnel Cake at the RAWF

Photographed by me

  With our stomachs full, we browsed the rows of shops. I made sure to keep my spending to a minimum as it could be so easy for anyone to max out their credit card on tack, homeware and jewellery.

  We then went to say hello to the sheep and cows before heading to the Horse Palace while we waited to enter back into the Ricoh Coliseum. The night's shows started at 7 pm. These shows are not included in the standard admission's price, but they are worth the money. We watched the Belgian Six-Horse Hitch, the Road Horse to Bike Championship, the Cavallo Equestrian Arts, the Green Meadows Coaches (where Robert Herjavec and Kym Johnson made an appearance) and the Harness Pony-Open. All of this, lead up to the main event that started at 9 pm; the $132,000 Longines FEI World Cup.

Pure Horse Sense Blog- Sheep at the RAWF

Photographed by me

Pure Horse Sense Blog- Calf at the RAWF

Photographed by me

  It was great to watch some of the great international show jumpers compete at the highest level right before our eyes. We watched 20 top horse and rider combinations try to win the first place prize of $43,560. Some of these riders included Ian Millar, Beezie Madden, Reed Kessler, McLain Ward and the Philippaerts brothers.

  In the end, McLain Ward came out on top with his horse HH Azur. The announcer also mentioned that this win meant that McLain had won 7 Wednesday night competitions at the Royal so far. That's pretty impressive. On top of that, he won the McKee Family International Jumpers on Carneyhaugh Manx that morning too.

  We enjoyed ourselves a great deal at the Royal this year and we plan on going back again next year. I'd recommend anyone to book their tickets and visit the fair if they're ever in the Toronto area at the same time. If you want to a sneak peek of the show, FEI will be live streaming Friday's $50,000 Weston Canadian Open and Saturday's $75,000 Big Ben International Challenge on their YouTube channel.

  Until next time, happy riding!

My Royal Experience: The Shows

  The shows at the Royal Winter Fair are what most people buy their tickets for. The competitions are scheduled continuously throughout the day and involve many levels and disciplines to meet the interest of every horse person. For the most part, the competitions are free to watch with the purchase of the general admission ticket.  However, there are some shows that require an additional fee which are definitely worth the extra spending.

  The competition ring itself is surrounded by rows and rows of seats. It is also used for hockey tournaments so it is quite a large ring to ride in. Since there is so much for a horse to look at, it's a great opportunity to expose your horse to different environments that he is not used to. You can really tell the difference between the experienced horses from the novice in this arena.

  We enjoyed watching various competitions throughout the day while we gave our feet a break from all of the walking we did around the vendors and horse stalls. The competitions we watched ranged from international show jumping to intermediate hunters to international dressage. 

  But the evening shows, like I said before, were the ones to stick around for. I specifically called these shows, because that's what it felt like. Although they were all competitions (except for Guy McLean's performance), they dimmed the lights and had an announcer that made you feel like you were at a show.  This wasn't something I expected at all. But it was a nice surprise.

  The competitions we watched included: the Belgian Six Horse Hitch, the Single Horse Road to Bike Championship, the Four in Hand Coaching Class Performance, the Single Harness Pony Open and finally the Hickstead FEI World Cup Grand Prix.

  The FEI World Cup was just as entertaining as watching any show jumping competition on tv... except you're watching it in person. The jumps were high (up to 1.60 metres high and 2 metres long) with $100,000 split between the top 12. There were a total of 21 athletes from all over the world who competed that day. Only 9 of which made it to the jump off. McLain Ward came out on top with his horse Rothchild to win $33,000. If you want to see how your other athletes scored, you can click here (the show was on November 12).

  Congratulations to McLain Ward and all of the other athletes who competed throughout Royal Winter Agricultural Fair. It was a lot of fun to attend and we hope to go back again this year.

  Thank you for being patient with me as I get back on schedule with my postings. It may take a few more weeks before Pure Horse Sense is back to how it should be. I'm also working through changing the appearance of the blog so there will be a many new changes to come. I'd suggest subscribing to Pure Horse Sense if haven't done so already as blog posts may not be published on the same days every week until I find a schedule that works best.

  Thank you for reading. Don't forget to read the other posts about my experience at the Royal if you've missed them:

Part 1 - My Royal Experience: The Venue

Part 2 - My Royal Experience: The Horses

Part 3 - My Royal Experience: The Shows

  Until next time, happy riding!

My Royal Experience: The Horses

  Happy new year everyone! Another year has come and gone. Although 2014 was great, let's all make 2015 even better.

  Now, after a long delay, here is the second post about my experience at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

  I've already talked about the food, the shops and the other animals, but what I really bought the tickets to see was the horses. Numerous competitions were held throughout the day where you could watch riders of different levels compete.

  What was also great was that the stable area was open to the public. That meant you could walk around, pet all of the horses and meet other horse people. Well, almost. There was a section of the barn where the public was not allowed to enter; the FEI location. Which is understandable.

  But, that doesn't mean that you couldn't get up close to your favourite riders anyway. If you hung around the stables long enough, you'd be able to see international athletes walking by you and watch them warm up in the ring. In fact, we passed by Beezie Madden on her way to the arena for her course walk and we sat and watched Ian Millar ride past us in the warm up ring too many times to count. That made it quite a unique experience.

  What was also unique was the stable itself. The stable, called the Horse Palace, is huge. There are so many stalls that I didn't even bother to count. But what makes the Horse Palace really unique is it is two levels. There are horses stalled on both the bottom and top levels of the stable. To get to the top level, there is a ramp where horses are always going up or down. If you're unable to make it up the ramp, there's even an elevator to help you reach the top too.

  The Horse Palace was a great place to visit. Who knew there was a stable like this in downtown Toronto! You can even take lessons there year round if you live nearby.

 We had a blast walking around the stalls and saying hello to the horses. I even ran into a friend (who I haven't seen in about 7 years) who was competing that day, which was a very nice surprise.

  Thank you for reading and I wish you all a wonderful new year. Don't forget to read the other posts about my experience at the Royal if you've missed them:

Part 1 - My Royal Experience: The Venue

Part 2 - My Royal Experience: The Horses

Part 3 - My Royal Experience: The Shows

Until next time, happy riding!

My Royal Experience: The Venue

  On November 12th, I had the chance to go to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair that is held annually in Toronto. If you are unaware of what this fair is, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair (also known as the Royal Winter Fair or just simply the Royal) celebrates all things agricultural in downtown Toronto, Ontario.

Picture from:

http://idontblog.ca/free-tickets-to-the-royal-agricultural-winter-fair/

  I've always wanted to go as this fair is always publicised as being a big deal for agricultural lovers, especially horse lovers. So this year, we bought the tickets and off we went.

  The exhibition place was much larger than I expected. It was filled with vendors selling equine jewelry, custom saddles, custom boots, tack, souvenirs and so much more. There were rows and rows of little shops to visit and spend your money.

  As you walked past that section, you were then invited into food stands that will meet anyone's cravings. Whether you wanted pulled pork, funnel cake, BeaverTails, poutine or a sandwich, there was something there for you. Although many of the options weren't very healthy, they all looked delicious. I'd recommend Smoke's Poutinerie if you have never had a poutine before as it was the best one I have had since living in Ontario (and coming from someone who was brought up in Quebec, that's saying something!).

Oreo funnel cake

Picture taken by me

  Within the food section of the building, there are various food competitions going on. Some of these competitions include best vegetable or fruit, best tasting jam or cheese and best butter sculpture.

  All of these areas of the fair were great, but it wouldn't be an agricultural fair without the animals. If you could think of any farm animal, it was probably at this fair. They had chickens, geese, cows, pigs, rabbits, sheep, ducks, goats and so much more. There was even a petting zoo for the kids. Many local farms had brought their best animals to the fair to compete against other. The best part was that you could walk around and watch the owners take care of their animals. There weren't any barriers so you could easily reach out and pet each animal if you wanted to.

Picture taken by me

Picture taken by me

  We had a blast at the fair. We will definitely try to go back again next year.

  If you're wondering where the horses fit into this fair, don't worry. I'll talk about that part of the fair in the next posts. It will be too long of a blog post if I shared everything now so stay tuned!

  What I will say is that seeing the horses and the competitions were the highlight of the fair. Also, if you're a fan of FEI, then you'll also know why we decided to visit the fair on that particular day.

  That's all I am going to say for today and I hope you are all having a good week.

  Until next time, happy riding!

Don't forget to read the other posts about my experience at the Royal if you've missed them:

Part 1 - My Royal Experience: The Venue

Part 2 - My Royal Experience: The Horses

Part 3 - My Royal Experience: The Shows