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Royal Winter Fair – Celebrating The Horse in Royal Style!



by Leeann Mione

TORONTO, Ontario, Canada – It’s going to be difficult to do justice on paper to portray what the Royal Winter Fair Horse Show and Agricultural Fair is really like. Toronto provides the backdrop to a ten-day celebration that is incredibly unique and over-the-top grand.


The Royal Winter Fair is at once both country and city, elegant and plain, sophisticated and “blue jeans”. For 85 years, thousands of people from throughout Canada and in fact, numerous countries throughout the world, have come to converge at the Direct Energy Center to celebrate Canada’s Agricultural Winter Fair.


The fair is truly a place that families can come and find something for everyone. It would be hard to see it all in one day, despite the fact that everything takes place in one very large building.


Champion livestock is everywhere, as are demonstrations of everything from cooking methods to cleaning products and everything in-between. To be here competing is a big deal. Whether you’ve brought prize-winning produce, champion horses or a prize bull, it is an enormous honor to be here, let alone earning a top ribbon.


If you are fortunate enough to be a vendor, you can count on 10 days of non-stop crowds prepared to buy what you are selling.


The Royal Vineyard showcases Ontario’s increasingly successful winemaking industry. The Vintner’s Terrace seats 400 people and offers fine dining. It is just one of the options you have to experience world-class cuisine and a variety of dining experiences. One of the most popular places to eat for the “horsey” set is the Hitching Ring Café and Bar. Seating overlooks the warm-up ring, and diners can watch everything from eight-time Olympian Ian Miller and his eight-year-old Holsteiner gelding preparing for their show jumping competition to the Green Roadster Classic horses or Hackney ponies preparing to enter the show ring.


Despite its name, The Hitching Ring Café isn’t a “corn dog and lemonade” kind of place. It is like several other restaurants, a “formal dress and you’d better make reservations 24 hours in advance” kind of place.


That’s not to say Royal Winter Fair is so uptight and fancy that you can’t get a corn dog or popcorn or cotton candy. It is just one of the things that make Royal Winter Fair an event like no other. The expensive mixed with the inexpensive, fancy mixed with plain, and the wealthy mingling with the common folk.


One of the other factors that make this event such a draw for families is the fact that education and youth are placed at a premium.


In the “Spirit of the Horse” ring, which sits in Exhibit Hall A, daily demonstrations showcase a variety of horse breeds including Saddlebreds, Friesians, Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Gypsy Vanners, Kentucky Mountain Horses and a host of others. Large crowds gather daily to watch the breeds perform and stalls are set up so they can see the horses up close and personal.


Equimania is a huge learning center devoted to all things equine. It provides a “hands on” approach to teaching kids and parents about horses.


There is so much to do, see and buy at Royal Winter Fair, no matter what your interests, but if you are a horse lover and fortunate enough to be there, then you are fortunate indeed.


Ricoh Coliseum hosts equine competition that is spectacular to say the least. It is apparent after only a short time spent in the barns, warm-up arena and coliseum that the horse show is the piece de’ resistance of this 10-day event.


Hackney ponies and horses, carriage horses, draft horses, roadster horses and ponies, Welsh ponies and Shetland ponies share the stage with Olympic-caliber show jumpers and dressage champions. Crowds walk through the stabling area and gather in huge groups to watch the draft horses being hitched, harnesses cleaned or carriages being prepared for competition.


Reigning Combined Driving World Champion

Michael Freund, from Germany, took on three

other teams in the Carriage Racing Derby.

His microphone was live and he talked to

the crowd during his victory pass.


There is such a spirit of camaraderie amongst the owners, trainers and exhibitors and regardless of breed affiliations, the word “congratulations” rings out over and over up and down the barn aisles when someone returns with a winning red ribbon. Yes, that’s right, a red ribbon. Unlike here at home in the States, the blue ribbon is awarded for second place.


Numerous well-known barns from the States showed their Hackney Horses and ponies and road horses in front of Judge Raymond Shively and photographer Genevieve Kendell during the nine-day horse show.


The Green Meadows coaching classes also featured prominent American exhibitors, and they were judged by Mark Broadbent of the United Kingdom.


With the Hackney Horse World Grand Championships and numerous Canadian National Championships on the line, competition was fierce in virtually every division.


In the $13,000 Green Roadster Classic To Bike Finals for example, ten road horses returned after competing in two splits with 16 entries each. Sam Brannon drove Elizabeth Caldwell’s entry Aragorn to the finals win.


Road Rage, with Wayne Scharpf driving, was the Road Horse Canadian National Champion for the third year in a row after winning the Roadster to Bike Over 15.2 qualifier. Midday Special and Steve McLean moved way up in the ribbons from the 15.2 and Under class to take the reserve championship title.


Shirley and Wayne Scharf with three-time

Canadian National Champion, Road Rage

Total Vision and Carolyn Nugent won the ladies class for owner Lloyd Nugent. Lloyd Nugent drove for the win in the Roadster To Wagon 15.2 And Under class. The Two Of Spades and Penny McKee were reserve in the under two class before returning to win the championship for the wagon horses.


Rich Campbell, of Majestic Oaks, directed Holli McDowell and Heartland Wonderful Miss to the Roadster Pony Championship after they won the equally competitive open class for Creekridge LLC. Late-Nite’s Basic Impact and Roger Lucas claimed the reserve national championship for Edith Heath.


Holli McDowell and Heartland Wonderful Miss

were the Roadster Pony Canadian Champions

and open champions for Creekridge LLC.

Karen Waldron and her Bent Tree Farm had a dream week in Toronto and came home to Virginia with numerous Canadian National Championships. She teamed Night Predator to the Amateur Roadster Pony Championship and qualifier wins under the direction of Larry Ella. Rodney Hicks directed Nathan Roden and Michigan’s Habanero to the amateur reserve national championship.


Ella put another winner in the ring for Waldron when he drove Moment Of Excellence to the win in the Junior Road Pony class. The junior division at Royal Winter Fair featured ponies five years old and under. Runaway took reserve with Matt Schuckert driving for David Estis.


Bent Tree Farm and Rodney Hicks Stables battled it out for the top two slots in the Harness Pony Championship amongst a competitive group of American and Canadian entries. Par Excellence and Karen Waldron claimed the championship win after a victory in the open class with Ella driving.


Kathy Comeau, driving her entry Truly Naughty By Nature, headed to the winner’s circle in the ladies’ qualifier and returned in the Harness Pony Championship to claim second place under the direction of Hicks.


Kathy Comeau with Truly Naughty By Nature

and Carrie Wreen, Rodney Hicks Stables assistant

Sweetheart Of Success won the Amateur Harness Pony class to add another red ribbon to the Bent Tree/Ella Stables total.


The junior exhibitor class featured the young drivers with their Hackney or Harness ponies and they put on a great show. Six cobtails joined one Harness pony in the class. Spats & Hats took the win with Taylor Olvey driving for ABC Farms.


Devon Morrow is a well-known competitor at Royal Winter Fair and his great show this year was extra special. Last year, after competing at Toronto, Morrow was nearly killed in a serious snowmobiling accident. To see him back in the ring this year was nothing short of miraculous. Morrow showed Country Road’s Phantom to the reserve blue ribbon in the junior exhibitor class.


Devon Morrow returned to the Royal Winter Fair

this year and picked up wins in several divisions.

Friday and Saturday nights at Royal Winter Fair are unbelievably grand spectacles of what a horse show is like when combined with all the pomp and circumstance that the Royal Winter Fair offers.


Ricoh Coliseum is packed to the rafters, and most audience members in the box seats are in formal attire. Press from throughout Canada and in fact, numerous other countries, is waiting to photograph and write about the upcoming events, and the audience waits with bated breath for the competition to begin. The atmosphere is electric and you can feel the excitement when the house lights come down.


Holli McDowell was the first American exhibitor Friday night to feel the thrill of taking a victory pass in front of the huge and appreciative audience.


Marilyn Macfarlane was the second. Macfarlane is no stranger to the thrill of winning, whether it be in the United States, Canada or somewhere else in the world.


In fact, Macfarlane and Fancy Ribbons have both earned numerous wins for Randi Wightman. Friday night in Toronto however, Fancy Ribbons looked as fancy and elegant as she ever has in her numerous world’s grand championships, and she topped a great class of cobtails to win the Hackney Pony Canadian National Championship.


The girls of Walnut Way took on the boys and

came out on top when Fancy Ribbons was named

the Hackney Pony Canadian Champion for Randi

Wightman. Beth Nevitt joined Marilyn Macfarlane

in center ring for the presentation.

Mark In Time and Karen Waldron were reserve after Stan Bodnar drove for Waldron in the open class. Waldron herself drove On The Mark to win the open qualifier.


She was in the winner’s circle again when Heartland Ooh La La was named the ladies winner for Bent Tree, then returned to claim the Amateur Hackney Pony Stake win. Made You Look and Laurie Palmer were the amateur stake reserve champions.


Misdee Wrigley Miller added a third American victory on Friday night when she drove her Dutch Harness Horses to win the Green Meadows coaching event. Macfarlane and her Friesians were reserve.


Misdee and James Miller returned to the
Hillcroft Farm
tack room after winning the
Green Meadows Four-In-
Hand Performance
class with Dutch Harness Horses.

David Estis had yet another nice young pony at Toronto, and with Matt Schuckert driving, Extremely Proud won the Junior Hackney Pony class.


(L to R) David Estis joined Matthew Christopher,
and Matt Schuckert with last year’s Hackney

  Horse World Grand Champion, Halstead’s Viking.

Namesake’s Secret and Meagan Heath won the Pleasure Pony Driving Canadian National Championship after winning the adult class. Miss Excellence and Janet Hicks were the reserve champions.


Meagan Heath and Namesake’s Secret


Super Spy won the junior exhibitor qualifier with Shannon Ella in a really nice class and also took reserve in the adult class with Amanda Ella driving.


Shannon Ella and Super Spy


Saturday night’s Hackney Horse World Grand Championship got the action started and with a huge crowd looking on, a beautiful group of Hackney horses came through the gate to compete in front of Raymond Shively.


Last year’s winner, Halstead’s Viking, came into the championship having won the open class. Last year’s junior horse winner, Shelburne, won the junior class again this year before returning for the championship. Hope Valley was reserve in the open class earlier in the week and these three American-owned horses worked hard to claim the top three spots in the championship.


Each had their own unique look and way of going, and each turned in a performance worthy of the title but when Shively’s card was turned it, it was Shelburne named to take the victory pass with Stan Bodnar as the World Grand Champion for Bent Tree Farm. Halstead’s Viking, with Matt Schuckert driving for Melbern Byler, finished as the reserve grand champion and Hope Valley was third. Todd Draheim drove for Misdee Wrigley Miller. Art Alderman and First Impression were next in line for a ribbon and Devon Morrow drove Patton for fifth place.

Shelburne, driven by Stan Bodnar, was named

World Grand Champion Hackney Horse

for Bent Tree Farm.

Heartland Blizzard added the Amateur Canadian National Champion Hackney Horse title to Waldron’s total after she drove for the win under the direction of Rich Campbell. They also won the amateur qualifier to make it a clean sweep for Bent Tree Farm. Canada’s Pride and Helen Thomas were the amateur reserve national champions for Moree Thomas.


Heartland Blizzard and Karen Waldron

swept the amateur Hackney horse division

under the direction of Rich Campbell.

In addition to putting Hackney ponies and horses in the ring all week for top honors, Matt Schuckert added another prestigious title to the Debonaire Stables total. He directed his wife, Alicia, and Michigan’s My Aching Heart to the win in the Shetland Pony Canadian National Championship. Roger Slobody’s beautiful and atypical-looking Shetland mare brought the national championship title back to the United States for the first time in more than 16 years. Alicia Schuckert also drove to the win in the open class and Matt Schuckert showed to win the Shetland Mare In Hand class.


Michigan’s My Aching Heart was the Shetland

Pony Canadian Champion for Roger Slobody

with Alicia Schuckert driving. Matt Schuckert

showed to win the Shetland Mare In-Hand class.

This concludes the highlights of the 2007 Royal Winter Fair Horse Show. More results can be seen and searched by clicking here.

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