Taking your pony to the Erin Fair

For many horse people, getting their horse or pony ready for the local fair is a special tradition.  It holds a certain nostalgia and often is connected to memories of past fairs, meeting up with old friends or proudly bringing home that red ribbon. Preparation and lead up to the fair or other horse shows often includes qualifying or showing at other events and can be a work in progress that takes place throughout the entire riding season.  For some families, with recreational horses and back yard ponies, their local fair might be the only horse show they attend.  Unfortunately, this year due to the pandemic many fairs were not able to go ahead or if they did proceed, certain animal shows and events were cancelled.  When the popular Royal Winter Fair cancelled it had a domino effect on horse and other livestock shows, throughout the region.

For 171 Years, the Erin Fair has been offering a variety of horse shows to promote equine breeds and disciplines and is proceeding this year with many of its horse attractions and events.  Over the Thanksgiving weekend horse enthusiasts can watch or take part in the following horse activities:  Heavy Horse Pull, Gaited Pony Show, Welsh Pony Show, Sport Pony Show, Hunter Jumper Show, Open Horse Show or meet a real horse in the Agricultural Awareness Tent.   On Sunday, cowboys and cowgirls will be competing in an Extreme Cowboy Race, the first time this event has been held at the Erin Fair.

“Think of the judge as a ranch boss looking to hire some new hands: riders and horses will need to demonstrate their skills through a series of ranch-based obstacles to get the job. It’s a fun test of the partnership between horse and rider,” said Karen Dallimore, organizer of the event. “All ages of riders and all breeds of horses will compete against each other in their own divisions, each bringing their own skills to the ‘job interview’ over a course that they haven’t seen before. The horse and rider are scored out of 10 on each obstacle and receive a score out of ten for overall horsemanship with bonus points for speed of execution.”

OXC Racing will start at 8:45 am with the walk through for the Young Guns division. Information is available at ontarioxtremecowboy.ca.

Erin Fair president Brenda Lothmann grew up in a family immersed in standardbred racing.  Lothmann and her husband manage a dairy farm and Brenda works as the local Dairy Educator along with volunteering with the local 4H Dairy groups.  On some weekends she puts on her western boots and cowboy hat to attend horse shows in the OQHA circuit.  Says Lothmann:  “Our rural fairs are important to local breeders and farmers.  Fairs offer horse owners and farmers the opportunity to showcase their animals, see new stock and connect with old friends.  Shows provide an important place to demonstrate skills and learn new ones.  Visitors coming to local fairs have a great opportunity to interact with real farmers, and often meet a horse or other animal up close for the first time.   Local fairs and agri-events are great local tourism experiences and offer a glimpse at a rural lifestyle.  Agriculture awareness and education is the cornerstone and mission of the Erin Fair.”

This year’s Erin Fair theme is ‘From Pioneer Days to Modern Ways’ and there will be interesting heritage displays and antique tractors and farm equipment as well as the Horse Heritage awards which will be presented Saturday morning in the Agricultural Awareness tent.  This award was established by the Erin Agricultural Society to recognize the people, organizations and horses who have made a significant contribution to Erin’s horse community.  Past recipients of this award include 2018 inductees:  Gail Wood, Woodlands Farm (Thoroughbred Breeder and Industry Development), Fred Cox (Community/Heavy Horses), David Leitch (Percheron Breed Development/Youth Mentorship), Edenwold, Thoroughbred horse (Lifetime Achievement,  2006 Queen’s Plate winner), bred  and foaled at Woodlands Farm.  The 2019 inductees were:  Bryn and Carol Robertson, (Lifetime Achievement, Quarterhorse Breed and QH Racing).

Whether you are competing with your own pony, or cheering on someone else’s horse, there are lots of activities for horse people, animal lovers and good fun to experience when you visit the Erin Fair, Thanksgiving weekend.  Local and farm tours are a wonderful way to get to meet the people and animals who are the backbone of our local agriculture community.

Fair ribbon Credit: Erin Fair archive, circa 1950

Bridget Ryan