An enduring equestrian admiration

by Andy Bryenton

When the automobile rose to power in the early years of the 1900s, many opined that it would be the end of the horse as a mode of transport. Some went further; at the release of an early-model Dodge, one enthusiast foretold that ‘in 10 years the horse will only be seen in zoos or the wild’.

Thankfully, such opinions were wrong. The horse is very much a part of life in the country, and though there are few who still rely on equestrian power to plough, muster and carry, horse sports are an ever-popular part of the A&P show circuit. The forthcoming Courtenay A&P show is no exception, with a widely varied card of equestrian events to delight both experts in the saddle and the general public.

A look at the amount of events and prizes up for grabs shows the amazing diversity of equestrian disciplines, the massive variation in breeds of horse, and to no lesser extent, the way that horses live on in our day to day language. There are events here for ‘show ponies’; literally non-working horses back in the past, but now a byword for people who are all style over substance. In reality, ponies in training for the show put in long hours of practice with their human partners. The opposite is a category for ‘hacks’; while in earlier times this meant an everyday riding horse, a trusty, non-fancy and dependable animal, now it can often mean a person who is a worker but not an artist at their craft. Visitors to the Courtenay A&P might be said to be ‘champing at the bit’ to see this year’s field given ‘full rein’.

Horses exert a fascination beyond their abilities to run like the wind or to pull the heaviest loads. From Shetland to Clydesdale — these are animals with plenty of personality. Although the biggest horsepower is now to be found in other parts of the showgrounds, among the latest tractors, the power of the horse is in its ability to inspire across generations. We may not need the efforts of these magnificent creatures to help us power society any longer, but they are still show stoppers in their own right. The Courtenay A&P Show features hundreds of equestrian categories with keen contestants in each one. Plan to visit the show ring on the day to see what keeps humans and horses ‘best mates’, even 100 years after the Model T.