50 years of equine heritage
Equestrian enthusiasts gathered last weekend in Didsbury to mark a half-century of community passion and commitment for Alberta’s longest running volunteer-driven horse show.
The 50th annual Didsbury Horse Show, which is an Alberta Equestrian Federation (AEF) sanctioned event, ran from July 6 to 8 at the Didsbury Exhibition Grounds (DEG). The event, formerly held at the Didsbury Arena, has been held at the DEG for the past eight years.
“This show is very important for the club. We started organizing it two years ago,” said Denise Thompson, a member at large for the show committee. “We had 200 horses entered with about 500 spectators over the weekend.”
The weekend show began Friday at 7 p.m. with the Obstacle Challenge, an event that saw competitors attempting 12 obstacles in 150 seconds. Points were awarded with each obstacle. Riders then had the choice to earn 100 extra points with a bonus obstacle, which had to be completed in 90 seconds. The top three riders were eligible to win $500, which was split between them.
On Saturday, the show featured events for senior riders who were 18 years old and over. In the outdoor arena, riders competed in the Hunter Jumpers competition. Sandy Alexander, an internationally renowned judge and clinician, judged this event. There was also the English, Western and Pony Driving competitions in the indoor arena, as well as Halter and Showmanship event.
The juniors (17 years old and under) competed Sunday in the Showmanship competition in the indoor arena. English, Western and Fun classes were held in the morning.
In the outdoor arena, Dressage competition for all ages was held. The event began at 8 a.m.
Outside the competition, there was a mini Trade Fair held in the Angle Energy Building. Participants included the AEF and the local humane society.
On Saturday night, organizers staged the Gala Evening, which began with the three-bar jumpoff competition. Horses jumped as high as they could over small, medium and large fences. The top three riders split a $500 payout.
Following the jumpoff, there was a short processional lead by two RCMP officers.
“We were honouring longtime volunteers, participants and the two surviving founding members, Jack Johnston and Don Irwin,” said Thompson. “We also honoured our sponsors because without sponsors we can’t run a horse show. Sponsorship money goes directly back to the participants and is not used to pay judges.”
Irwin, who is now 77, said he was honoured to be recognized at the show. He said when he helped create the event 50 years ago he never thought in terms of how long it would go on or how much the event would mean to the community.
“When we started everybody was green but it has grown. I personally didn’t think back then about how long it (show) would go. You just kept going,” said Irwin. “We tried to make it a family event. It has been fun.”
Many dignitaries including Brian Wittal, the mayor of Didsbury and Bruce Beattie, reeve of Mountain View County, attended the Gala.
“I think this show illustrates the longevity of such events for the community, like the light horse and rodeo events, as well as demonstrating the heritage of this area,” said Wittal. “These are important. It helps to build the community. It is appropriate to showcase our community to others with events like these.”
For further information about the Didsbury Horse Show and its future, contact Thompson at 403-335-3462 or 403-507-9685, or Peggy Baker, show secretary, at 403-335-3318.