November 13th, 2005

November 12, 2005
Paula and I went to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair today and it was
wonderful. I watched showjumping all the time growing up and I haven't done so in a long time--today I saw Ian Miller ride in person for the first time in my life. Not only that, I got to watch him warm up before the Big Ben Jumpoff.

Walking into the fair I was struck by how funny it is to have an agricultural fair indoors--the Fall Fair back home in Quesnel was outdoors, rain or shine, and it seemed a little ridiculous to have all of the animals indoors making a mess when there is all of that unused outdoor space available.....I guess things really are different in the city!
Paula had told me that the attending patrons of the evening show always "dress up" but I didn't realize that she meant in EVENING WEAR! Apparently the box seats have a dress code, and it was something to see--the men in their tuxes and top hats, the women in floor-length gowns....it was like we were two overlapping worlds--the normal people in their jeans and Ts, and these ghostly, floaty, perfect people from another dimension who slipped in among us for a while and then disappeared.
I found myself the slickest cowboy hat ever made--in lime green felt! with beads and tassles! and paid more than I should have for it but it makes me look pretty edgy LOL. I also found all kinds of great christmas presents--it's a huge trades show, on top of the agricultural part, and I was constantly having to tell myself that I don't need anymore silver jewellry!
The best part of the day, though, was at the beginning--before we bought fudge, before we ate potato pancakes with sour cream, before we found our way into the barns and stables and found out where the expensive and "famous" horses are kept--right at the beginning, at two o'clock, when the Canine-Equestrian challenge began.
For those of you who don't know what this is--basically you have a horse and rider pair teamed up with a dog. The horse and rider have to complete their jumps in the fastest possible time, and as soon as they are done, the dog runs an obstacle course with a trainer. The fastest combined time wins, with penalties for knocked down jumps or missed obstacles.
The dogs were hilarious--big dogs, small dogs, purebreds, mutts--but the stars of the show were a small jack russell terrier who was quicker than anything alive and jumped a little doggie-oxer with 5 rails (about 8 times his own height) and a french bulldog named Pot Roast who refused to do the course pretty much completely. He even went so far as to label a barrel in the ring "public enemy number one" and launched himself over it, knocked it over, and then stood guard.....when his trainer finally got him to pay attention he reluctantly finished the course (walked through the fences
instead of jumping over them, which was hilarious) and then returned to the barrel, which someone had picked up, and knocked it over again by launching himself at it bodily--it connected with a huge thud--and could only be tempted from the ring with one of the bars of the jumps he had knocked down! When they all came out for awards at the end of the show he was STILL HANGING ON TO THE BAR! All in all it was amazingly exciting to watch. Afterwards came the junior amateur speed jump-off and then the unicorn match (three horses pulling a carriage). At the end (before the welsh pony pleasure driving class) came a troup of horses from Quebec along with their two trainers and riders.
They proceeded to perform the most astonishing tricks, and I walked out of the ring feeling like a little kid who has seen something that will stay with them forever.....
I have three weeks of class left, imagine!

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