Thanksgiving Classic back for first time in two years

·3 min read

Showcasing the talents of one of the world’s most popular horses, the Manitoba Quarter Horse Association Thanksgiving Classic Quarter Horse Show was back for the first time since 2019 over the holiday weekend.

“We have good competitors and good competition here. We’ve had horses here that have gone on to place very high in the world shows,” said Larry Clifford, show manager with the Manitoba Quarter Horse Association (MQHA).

“The numbers aren’t big, but the quality of our Manitoba horses is very high.”

He was unsure what to expect for the Thanksgiving Classic at the Westoba Credit Union Agricultural Center of Excellence Arena given the uncertainty created by the global pandemic affecting many competitors’ and judges’ ability to attend the show.

The judges are the heart of the show, Clifford said, and it was a challenge recruiting them for the Classic owing to fluctuating COVID-19 public health measures, which in turn affected attendance and availability.

The show featured five judges from across North America, providing guidance and feedback to competitors over four days.

During a class, competitors complete different patterns to show off a quarter horse’s ability to yield and respond to their rider and the overall horsemanship of a team. Clifford said the skills demonstrated are those that would be found every day on a working ranch horse, including herding cattle, trail riding, chucking cows and other tasks.

“It’s the epitome of a well broke horse and a good horse that works as one with the rider,” Clifford said. “It showcases the mind and the quality of the horse.”

The Thanksgiving Classic launched in the early 1990s and over the years, the show has appeared in various arenas with varying numbers of competitors — each year of events helped prepare the competition to take place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With COVID, it really slowed things down this year,” said Clifford, who is also the American Quarter Horse Association Manitoba (AQHA) director and a Canadian Quarter Horse Association board member.

“But, it’s a great showing of really good quality horses.”

MQHA held its first ranch horse show the first weekend of September but missed the Thanksgiving show in 2020 for the first time in 23 years.

Clifford said he was please with the turnout given the COVID-19 situation, and he is proud of the competitors who travelled from across Canada to participate, bringing with them more than 50 head of horses.

The Thanksgiving Classic is organized through AQHA 120 days in advance, he said, and they decided it was worth pulling the trigger this year and hoping COVID-19 public health measures would allow for competition.

“It was really hard to organize and keep on an even keep compared to what we did previously,” Clifford said.

During the Thanksgiving Classic, the quarter horses show off their skills in English, Ranch and slower pleasure courses.

“The quarter horse is just a really versatile horse,” Clifford said. “It’s just a good horse to work with. They’re well-mannered.”

Destiny Pryzner and her horse Diamondnic Duel Rey travelled from Sioux Lookout, Ont., to participate in the Thanksgiving Classic.

The Classic marked the second show Pryzner and her horse have competed in. The past two years have been challenging, she said, because there have been limited opportunities for her horse to experience the thrill of competition.

“He’s only four, so I feel like his three-year-old year was kind of lost due to COVID,” Pryzner said. “It really limited us in being able to haul out and go and ride with coaches and trainers.”

Cindy Routledge, hailing from Hamiota, and her horse JR, appreciated being able to compete in a show close to home.

The duo has had a busy season with six shows across the prairies.

Routledge said she is grateful to friends who kept her motivated and on her toes last year so she’d be ready to race back into competition.

“We just love the community that it is,” Routledge said.

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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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