WILLIAMSBURG -- Rachel Reid watched Horse Shows By The Bay steadily grow since she participated in the competition's first year at age 10.
Reid, now 15, takes part in nearly a dozen shows around the country each year with her horses Blossom and Nice Boy when she isn't busy training the animals near her family's summer cottage in Leelanau County. But for the next three weeks, she'll be just a short drive from one of the most prestigious horse shows in the Midwest.
"The Horse Shows By The Bay (is) getting a name for itself and a lot of big trainers and barns are going to it, so the competition is getting tougher," Reid said. "I look forward to all of it, but I am looking forward to low junior jumpers with my horse Blossom because we just moved up to that division and I really like it so far."
The ever-growing equestrian festival starts Wednesday and runs through Aug. 3. Reid is among an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 participants from across the U.S. and beyond that will head to the Flintfields Horse Park off Bates Road in Acme Township for the next three weeks to compete for more than $360,000 in total prize money.
This year's event features a new Team Elmer's Grand Prix Ring with seating for about 4,000 spectators -- the largest of its kind in the state -- an added polo exhibition, a high performance hunter classic, a local rider day and dozens of more stalls.
The 2008 show marks the biggest turnout yet since the event debuted in 2004 with about 250 riders, said show President Alexandra Rheinheimer.
"When you look at who's attending, it's more and more of the cream of the crop in the horse show industry. We have some of the best riders in the country," Rheinheimer said.