Monday, July 27, 2009
I can see the appeal of the horse. I'm not a fanatic, nor a buff, nor a farmer; have never even ridden on one, but I appreciate the noble animal. The horse has certainly been among mankind's most helpful and loyal animal companions through millennia of civilization-building, maybe second only to the dog in importance to our advancement. They're swift, smart and strong; all admirable qualities. So, it was with part appreciation and part curiosity that we decided to check out the 70th annual New England Morgan Horse Show last Friday evening, at Northampton's Tri-County Fairgrounds.
It was a week long event and according to the ticket guy in the booth, the biggest Morgan show east of the Mississippi. It's not often in this century that you hear that kind of praise. I believe he said there were some 700 or so Morgans there, and the only show that's bigger was in Oklahoma City in October, west of the ole Miss'.
The particular breed that this show is all about, the Morgan, was actually 'invented' right here in the valley, specifically in West Springfield; and even more specifically, spawning from a stallion named 'Figure' that was owned by Justin Morgan back in the day. All Morgan horses can be traced back to that one steed, or stud...
While this show is the second biggest, it's certainly not the only show around. There are several throughout the year, and most of the local ones in West Springfield and Deerfield.
It was late when we drove by for a look and there were only a few rounds of competition left for the night, but admission was just 5 bucks each and the tickets were good for the next day, so we bit. The show was well attended even at that hour; there are a lot of Morgan fans around here.
Most of the people were crowded around a small enclosed oval track, where the Morgans were doing some of what they're best at: trotting with small carriages in tow. The breed is kind of on the small side for horses, but they are indeed beautiful animals with well proportioned legs and torsos, long sharp faces and flaring nostrils.
There were several different pulling competitions, with two and four wheeled carriages.
One of the two wheeler competitions involved those harness-racer types you see at the betting tracks.
That competition brought on tremendous cheers, as while they weren't actually racing, they did do some spirited jockeying for position and briskly circled the track at fairly dangerous speeds.
Most of the other pulling competitions were a little more conservative and classier in nature, with the riders dressed accordingly.
It was an entertaining time, with kind of a dog-show feel to the whole event, with trotting music playing in the background and an enthusiastic announcer calling out from their viewing box.
At the same time, there was an old fashioned air to the whole show with blue, red and yellow pennants being awarded to the best steeds. The judges carefully watched from center track, and after each event, the competitors lined up so the judges could inspect the horses more closely before making their final decisions.
The crowd whooped and hollered when the judges approached their favorites, trying to skewer the decision-making.
We should have gotten there a little earlier as it seemed to be over too soon, but we feel like we got our 5 bucks worth with some out of the ordinary entertainment.
This much is for sure: when the little one inevitably asks me for a pony in a few years, I'll have no one but myself to blame...