All of the horses at the Altamont fair seemed to understand what that black box I held up to my face meant – a bright annoying flash – so they all dipped their heads for a snack of hay the minute I held the camera up. Not that I used a flash, but enough people must have for them to all react that way. Smart critters.
Of all the animals shown and judged at the fairgrounds, the horses and ponies seemed to have the lion’s share. The equine schedule had something going on almost every hour on every day of the fair. From huge draft horses with shiny black harnesses to tiny ponies no bigger than a golden retriever, horses were the stars of the show. I got to watch a few competitions (all trot! ….. ok, all halt! now….all canter….) and one memorable variety show while I was there.
Prior to the variety show I watched a couple try to fix the drooping wings attached to a saddle while the horse, bored, cropped grass in the waiting area. Giggling girls ran around in pink bathrobes (for the cancer awareness display) and one extremely patient horse stood still while his crew dressed him up as a pharaoh, complete with headdress and all. Unlike the competitions I saw earlier, this variety show included everyone from coaches to riders and parents.
It started well – patient horses put up with costumes and laughing fans as they walked into the ring. They all lined up down the center of the ring while the remainder of the groups trooped in, most accompanied by “creative” spiels. The horse with wings came in, ridden by a little girl of about 6 or 7 in a fluffy princess dress – he had rocking horse rockers attached to his saddle as well as the (still flopping) wings. Halfway through the judging I heard a scream – and looked up just in time to see the little girl fly headlong into the fence while her winged mount careened around the ring desperately trying to kick off his rocking horse costume.
It’s amazing how many people could sense trouble and drifted over to gawk at the horse ring. One ambulance later, the kid was headed to the hospital for scans just in case. Her extremely normal looking riding helmet that didn’t match the fairy costume had saved her from serious injury – the fair medical team said she should be just fine.