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...

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  ...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