TRAVERSE CITY — Today is opening day of Horse Shows by the Bay and it’s a great time to gallop in.
Just remember to wear sensible trotting shoes.
“There’s a lot going on,” said Alexandra “Alex” Rheinheimer, Horse Shows’ owner and operator. “We have five rings going on ... and they’ll be everything from small ponies to big jumpers and everything in between.”
Rheinheimer brought the festival to the area 10 years ago, impressed by the gorgeous scenery and the lakeshore’s cool breezes — at least relative to the rest of the country.
The event draws thousands of the country’s elite horses, riders and trainers who compete for cash prizes totaling $600,000 awarded over the four weeks. But it also includes amateur riders of all ages, including tykes as young as two or three years old who are judged for their ability to sit on a horse and be led around by a parent.
The horse show is located at the 84-acre Flintfields Horse Park just east of Williamsburg at 6535 Bates Road. The park was built to stage competitions and provide camping facilities for some of the estimated 3,000 riders and support staff. Organizers had to lease another 23 acres to accommodate it all, Rheinheimer said.
Today’s highlights include Team Elmer’s Kid’s Day, a free event for children under age 18 at the Farm House Orchard on the horse show grounds. The event runs 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Events include face painting, horseless jumping, dog agility demonstrations, & other activities. All gate proceeds benefit the Leelanau and Grand Traverse County 4-H Programs.
There’s also a High & Low Junior/Amateur Show Jump Prix from 1 p.m. to about 4 p.m. in the Grand Prix ring. For those wanting bigger action, stop by the $30,000 Danny & Ron’s Rescue Grand Prix on Sunday from 2 p.m. to about 5 p.m. in the Grand Prix ring.
New this year is a live feed from the horseshowsbythebay.com website that will bring the Grand Prix action to your laptop or smart phone, Rheinheimer said.
The event added 90 stalls this year, bringing it to a record 1,242 total. The stalls are sold out for the middle two weeks and nearly sold out for the fourth week, Rheinheimer said.
The “equestrian festival” has three disciplines, hunters, show jumping, and western reining.
“You can compare the hunters to figure skaters, where you are judged on race and elegance and beauty of doing particular movements,” Rheinheimer said, “The jumper is often more about the bigger jumps, and you’re judged on whether you knock them down and how fast you go.”
In Western reining, the horse and rider compete one at a time and ride a specific pattern, including rollbacks, spins and other useful ranch horse movements.
Various competitions take place during the week. Spectators are invited to watch on weekends while competition is in session from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or until close. The public also is invited to a July 13 gala anniversary, and are encouraged to wear the show’s orange and blue colors.
All events are $10/day per person, except for today and Family Day on July 20, when kids under 18 attend for free. The admission fee includes parking and access to all five competition rings, concessions and vendors.
Be forewarned: handicapped areas are limited. Seating is bleacher- and picnic grass- style, with and without cover. Events will be go “rain or shine” except for severe weather.
Please see www.horseshowsbythebay.com for other event highlights.