WESTS SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – We continue to mark the celebration of the Big E’s 100th anniversary season. This year’s horse show may have you leaping out of your seat.
Saddle up and get ready to see some of the most beautiful horses trot, jump and leap at the Big E’s Centennial horse show.
Horse show coordinator Stacey Hathaway told 22News, “Back in the day, they use to come in on railcars and walk them across the road.”
It’s one of the most celebrated events of the fair. Horse exhibitor Fifi Schmidt told 22News, “Well, we come every year, because we love the Big E. It’s our favorite horse show.”
The Hunter Classics are being showcased. Hathaway said the prize money is substantial, “For us it’s a big deal. It is a $15,000 purse.”
The Big E is only the 22nd show in the country to win the prestigious United States Equestrian Federation award.
Stacey Hathaway said, “It speaks for its self that we’ve put in the effort to make it quality, exhibitor friendly, well run, educating the public and of course warm and friendly and a great place to come during the fair.”
Since the beginning, horses have been a part of the Big E. In 1916, the fair started as a dairy show, but to attract the masses, organizers knew they were missing something, so they added horses.
Watch these majestic animals compete.
“Championship night, for the second week, is always exciting. The horses show under the light,” said Hathaway.
Riders and horses are judged on jumping and style of movement. Schmidt has been competing in the Big E, since she was 12.
She told 22News, “Even if you have a bad showing, the crowd goes nuts. Usually, the worse you do, the more the crowd applauds.”
Brian Flynn has been designing these courses for more than 40 years. A former rider himself, Flynn told 22News, presentation is very important. Riders and horses need to be as smooth as possible. Every jump must be timed perfectly, with horse and rider in sync.
“You definitely have to trust your horse. And they need to learn to trust you. So you have to bond and have a relationship,” said longtime rider Schmidt.
A unique relationship forms between a horse and a rider.
Schmidt said, “Just trusting that the animal is comfortable and being able to read the horse, whether he’s really up for it today or if he’s mentally in that right spot. And what to do if you need to get him there.”
Finding the right horse is like finding the right partner. “Some of them have great personalities that just want to hang out with you, some of them, not so much. But they’re great,” said Schmidt.
An unbreakable bond forms, according to Schmidt. “You’ll always have a special horse. A horse that meant a lot to you.”
Some horses receive five star treatment, including massages and daily grooming. It’s safe to say these horses are treated like professional athletes. And it’s expensive. Some owners spend more than $60,000 dollars a year on upkeep and training, all with hopes of winning a share of that prize money at the Big E.
Everything has to be just right for the centennial horse show.
Hathaway told 22News, “We finish off with the famous 6-hitch strap horse show.”
The top prize for this year’s horse show is $35,000.