By Erin Crowell
Strength, elegance and discipline these words probably best describe
the athletes who have taken over Northern Michigan in recent weeks. At
Horse Shows by the Bay, nothing commands attention more than a
stallion leaping several feet into the air or a gelding that glides
effortlessly across the earth to the rhythms of a song.
Think Cherry Festival was a long week? Try four.
Horse Shows by the Bay, the equestrian festival held at the
Flintfields Horse Park in Williamsburg, runs July 9 to August 1
bringing over 1,500 horses and their riders to compete in a series of
events for more than $400,000 in distributed prize money.
Grandeur, pride and history -- this is what inspires Horse Shows by the Bay.
Prior to the Horse Shows event, the 80 acres of Flintfields Farm is
fairly quiet. But come late June/early July, the property located just
north of M-72 comes alive with the whinny of horses and the sound of
engines, clanking metal and voices of workers as hundreds of horse
stalls are assembled underneath behemoth white tents.
Horse trailers roll through the property, and soon after the
thousands of spectators from across the state and around the country.
Horse Shows has a $10 million per year impact on the local economy,
says Kimberly Van Kampen Boyer, of Hampton Green Farm, which is one of
the events biggest supporters, particularly in the dressage category.
Everyone can enjoy this event because theres so many things to do in
Traverse City, says Maria Lithander, head trainer of Hampton Greens
Three quarters of the year, (Michigan) is great horse country. The
other one quarter, its like Siberia, laughs Lithander. Michigan is
kind of a well kept secret.
Lithander has traveled all over the world, competing and training in
places like Mexico where she won over 60 national and regional
Her specialty is in dressage, the step child of equestrian, as she
says, which involves nine progressive levels which incorporate
multiple tests within each. The most popular of these is musical
freestyle, where horse and rider perform a series of movements, with
various speeds, to music.
Its the most elegant event at Horse Shows: braided manes and careful
grooming on the horses, short top hats and white gloves for the
riders. And of course, theres the delicate way the horse seems to
float through the arena.
Dressage is all about a happy, quiet rider and a happy, athletic
horse, says Lithander.
Other events include the hunters and jumpers both involving horse
and rider leaping over an obstacle; however, the primary difference
between the two is in execution. The hunter category is judged on the
consistency, pace and style in which a horse jumps, providing the best
comfort for its rider. Jumpers must complete a series of at least 10
jumps, also of various heights, in the fastest time.
When talking about horseschampion horsesthe context of the
conversation is much like describing a rare car: performance, history,
country of origin price. At Horse Shows by the Bay, the average rider
can spend anywhere from $25,000 to a million on an equine, says Horsse
Shows co-founder Alex Rheinheimer.
Horses range from a variety of breeds and bloodlines, from Dutch
Warmbloods and Hanoverians to Oldenburgs and Pure Raza Esponolas
(PRE), the latter being the preferred competition horse by Lithander
and the breed specialty of Hampton Green Farm.
PREs are known for their sensibility, says Lithander.
She will be competing in Horse Shows with Hampton Greens head PRE
stallion Idilio II, a Spanish import who came to the farm in 1999.
He has his own personality, Lithander laughs. The other horses on
the farm know to stay out of his way.
Just some of his previous accomplishments include 2002 Top 20 Senior
Stallions SICAB, Spain; First Place, Intermediate II at the 2006 IDCTA
Summer Kickoff Dressage in Wayne, Illinois; and Second Place for the
2006 USDF All Breeds Award Grand Prix Open. The stallion was also once
described as poetry in motion.
Come see poetry in motion as horses and riders from all over the
country compete at Horse Shows by the Bay, happening now, July 9-Aug.
1, at Flintfields Farm in Williamsburg. Week three (July 23-25)
features the Open Jumper Welcome Prix, Children/Adult Jumpers, Show
Hunter Classics, along with a special Dressage Demo by local rider
Betsy Van Dyke.
Horse Shows by the Bay continues July 30-Aug. 1, as well as a Fall
Classics Competition, Sept. 10-12. More information is available at
horseshowsbythebay.com or by calling 231-267-3700.