By CHRIS DOBROWOLSKI firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — WILLIAMSBURG — For Molly Ashe, this year’s Horse Shows by the Bay was sweet redemption.
The international and national equestrian standout, who came to the annual month-long event with her farm Norfield, Inc. out of Fairfield, Conn., captured last weekend’s $20,000 International Hunter Derby on her horse Kennzo, making amends for coming up short at last year’s festival.
“It was nice because last year I was second because I messed up the second round myself,” said Ashe. “It was nice to not mess it up this year. Redemption is a beautiful thing.”
Ashe is in her second year taking part in the flourishing Horse Shows by the Bay program, which is wrapping up its festival this weekend. Alex Rheinheimer, show manager and owner of Horse Sports by the Bay, said the 10th edition of the festival was the best to date as more than 1,500 competitors took part in the program from as many as 35 different states and Canada.
“We’ve had more horses on property and riders than ever,” Rheinheimer said. “Right now the final week looks to be really good and we should end on a high note.
“They’re coming from all four corners of the United States. We have south Texas here, California, southern Florida, New York City — downtown Manhattan — people here from Canada. We’ve covered the map.”
Ashe is one of those who make the trek from quite a distance. She decided to come to last year’s program, and though she came up short, she was eager to come back for another two weeks.
“Actually, it was nice to come to a horse show that I’ve never been to before last year,” she said. “I can’t say that very often anymore. I’ve shown in Europe a lot. We go back and forth to Florida every year. We spend close to six months down in Palm Beach in the winter months and then we base out of Connecticut in the summer. This is probably our longest haul in the summer — this and Kentucky. We move around. We go wherever we have to go to find good footing for the horses and the right conditions for them.”
Ashe already is making plans for a return trip a year from now with a larger contingent.
“We love it. We’d heard nothing but good things about it the last few years in Connecticut,” she said. “Up in Connecticut we don’t have a lot of options showing-wise in the summer months so we thought we’d try something different and we absolutely loved it. The town’s great, the people here are fantastic. They’re so nice. The facilities are really nice. This year we came back with twice as many horses. We brought 14 this year. Hopefully next year we’ll get to bring a few more.”
For this year, Horse Shows by the Bay added an extra 90 stalls, bringing the count to 1,242 at the park. It added hundreds of extra people per day from previous seasons. Rheinheimer said the area has been a perfect fit for competitors and spectators alike.
“For the participants it’s about being in this super vacation destination area,” she said. “The weather has been phenomenal. Even if it’s hot there is always a nice breeze. When they’re finished competing here they can go into town or go out on the lake, and for them that’s something different. It’s not your typical horse show. For the general spectator, it’s something that doesn’t exist here in the area, or really in Michigan at all at this caliber. So to come and watch Olympic quality athletes and their horses compete, no matter what the sport, is pretty awesome.”
Horse Shows by the Bay added streaming video to its program this year, which allows for viewing the festival across the globe. Rheinheimer said the numbers for the stream have been good.
“It’s just nice to be able to offer,” she said. “It’s free to people, maybe if there’s a family member, or a particular horse, they can go and watch it. We also have videotaping of all the other competition rings that people can then purchase. So that whole added feature has been able to broaden our range and our reach and it’s something we’re really looking forward to expanding next year.”