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Summer Meets Spring at Des Moines Springfest

by Kristen Eve Gardner

DES MOINES, Iowa – The best weather so far this season greeted the crowd at this year’s Des Moines Springfest Horse Show. When the show kicked off at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Thursday, April 23, 2009, it was sunny and in the high 70s. This picture-perfect weather kept everyone in high spirits to start the show season. This show brought back seasoned teams ready to compete again, as well as young riders and horses ready to make their debut in the show arena. With its usual quality, the Des Moines Springfest Horse Show offered something fun and exciting for everyone in attendance. Class after class pleased the interactive crowd with its unfaltering quality.

However, talented horses, dedicated riders, and a little bit of sun are not enough to pull off a horse show the caliber of Des Moines Springfest. The show, which benefited the Regional Child Protection Center at Blank Children’s Hospital, was expertly run by Show Manager Lenard Davenport with the help of Barbara McDannald. Davenport was pleased with the outcome of the show, but did state that the numbers were slightly down this year and is hoping that a renewed economy and the beautiful and impressive new stadium being built will bring barns back for next year’s show. With a skilled eye, Judge Jim B. Robertson of Simpsonville, Ky., made all the big decisions from center ring. Announcer Dennis Porick kept the crowd informed, while Terry Young Photography captured each memorable moment. Don Baker, Randy Roberts, Jon Snider and Dr. David Wong rounded out the team as ringmaster, organist, farrier and veterinarian.

Hospitality was the overriding theme of the show and was perfectly planned by horse show officers and committees. After each morning session the riders, trainers, grooms and spectators were provided a delicious lunch. Likewise, for the evening sessions the highlight was a full buffet barbecue dinner on Friday evening at Diamond Jacks. Other meals included a pizza party, taco lunch, build-your-own deli lunch, an appetizer party and delectable assorted desserts topped off the Saturday night performance. Horse lovers of all ages enjoyed the food, and it is a safe bet that if the amazing classes don’t lure one back to Des Moines Springfest, the hospitality and food surely will.

Besides the competitive classes, fun classes and events brought even more family fun. The stick horse and the doggie costume class brought many smiles, but the highly competitive "pony toss" event, which took place on Friday and Saturday night, was one of the most loudly cheered events of the show. Sisters Nadine and Avis Van Zomeren wowed the audience as they worked as a team with horses Outrigger and In A Blue Moon, in the Pairs class. Young riders also tested their skills and took part in Junior Judging.

It was obvious that all contenders had worked hard to perfect their skills over the winter months, because no matter which ribbon was received the horses and riders had a good showing. Iowa’s own Reedannland Farm had a quite impressive show to take home 20 blue ribbons. Reedannland’s champions included some of the most exciting horses and ponies of the show, Twin Willow’s McDreamy and It’s Dan the Man. Twin Willow’s McDreamy seemed to the electrify the air in the coliseum when he boldly trotted into the ring for the Open Roadster Pony class on Thursday evening. With Dr. Alan Raun at the lines, the colorful pony seemed to build with every stride. He came back Saturday night in the same grand fashion. It’s Dan The Man and Louis Louw kept the excitement going the next night. When the beautiful bay horse trotted into the ring for the Junior Fine Harness class, whispers and cheers shot through the crowd.

Bob Brison’s Fairview Farm also returned home with a slew of blue ribbons. Brison won the Junior Five-Gaited class aboard Sterling Prince, the UPHA Five-Gaited Classic aboard Locust Groves Big Cat and a highly competitive Junior Park class aboard the adorable Captain Kangaroo. Jessica Curl rode hard to bring home the tricolor in the Show Pleasure Five-Gaited Stake with Callaway’s Jessica Fletcher. Elegant as always, Theresa Vonderschmitt trotted off with three blue ribbons. Without a doubt, all focus was on Mr. Center Stage in both Three-Gaited Amateur classes. Vonderschmitt and I’m Something Wicked racked to victory in the amateur five-gaited division and took home the reserve in the stake in the last class of the show. Abbey Gessmann and Fight Night powered to victory in this tough class.

Other big wins went to Glendale Stables, Mark Utoft Stables, La Fleur Stables and Robert and Jonelle Gardiner’s Landmark Farm, to name a few.

In the end, it was only the weather that tried to put a damper on this show. On Saturday morning the temperature dropped, the clouds rolled in and as the day turned to night, the skies opened up. Trainers, riders and horses had to dodge the drops to get to the arena. It was all worth it because once they all hit the ring the show went on and the crowd was entertained. The Des Moines Springfest successfully ended after a Sunday morning performance on April 23, 2009. Thanks Iowa and see you next year at the Des Moines Springfest!

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