Back in October of 2011, at the time of the Mane Event in Chilliwack and the CHHAPS(Canadian Horse Heritage & Preservation Society) AGM, CHHAPS chair Ken Morris stayed a night or two at Tickety Boo Farm. Ken’s one of our favorite people, and the former owner of Naro Haras Nisa, a little Canadian mare that Gilbert is training to work cows. Ken and Gilbert got to talking about the Northwest Horse Fair in Albany, Oregon, and they decided it would be a great idea to have Gilbert travel to Oregon for the Fair in March of 2012 and participate in the Canadian Horse demo. The plan evolved to where Gilbert would be riding John Hartley’s Canadian stallion Ranch Samaguy Dream-Boy Kurt in the demo.
Part of the plan was also for Ruth and Gilbert to transport the beautiful display panels for the Canadian Horse booth. The panels were donated to CHHAPS in 2011 by Kim Reid, who had them made about 10 years previously for the now defunct BC Canadian Horse District. So Ruth and Gilbert rented a truck and camper large enough to transport the 4’x8′ panel, and to serve as their home away from home while in Oregon. Having been in Oregon for the NW Horse Fair back in 2004 when Nisa was a yearling and enjoying some lovely warm days, they fully expected spring to be well under way in Oregon.
Surprise! Much of the drive through Washington and Oregon was in pouring rain, which didn’t let up after they reached Albany. They arrived two days before the Fair so that Gilbert and Kurt would have a chance to get to know each other before the demo. They parked their camper under a big tree at the barn where Kurt’s trainer, Kristina Eckert, had been working him. By morning the camper was being bombarded by clumps of wet snow falling from the branches. Yes, it snowed overnight! This was not something they had come prepared for. Cowboy boots and sneakers do not do well in two inches of slush. Gilbert seemed oblivious to the weather, however, as he put a couple of rides on Kurt and got him used to rope work.
By the start of the Fair, which ran from Friday to Sunday, the weather had improved somewhat, but it was still slushy during the setup on Thursday afternoon. The Oregon crew of CHHAPS members and Northwest Cavalry Association members did a great job putting up the display and other decorations in the horse barn. Fortunately thanks to JR and KC Robinson (long story), there was a space for the camper on the fairgrounds. Thursday night Kristina Eckert competed in the Breed Challenge, riding John Hartley’s mare Berthiaume Kurt Praline to successfully advance to the finals, while Gilbert and Kurt competed on Friday against stiff competition.
The CHHAPS demo began with two Canadians being ridden in historical costumes by Ken Morris and Terri Papineau, followed by a dressage pas de deux by trainer Bernadine Diers and student Natalie Pond riding two chestnut Canadians owned by Mandi Chestler, Ken on his mare Priceless and Michelle Heffner on her gelding Jeff, then French Canadian cowboy Gilbert riding Kurt and Kristina Eckert riding Praline in an English saddle and taking her over jumps. Here’s a video from Saturday.
Over the three days of the fair, in addition to the daily Canadian Horse breed demo, Canadian Horses took part in the Northwest Cavalry demo in the big arena. This was a real crowd pleaser, featuring swordplay and gunfire, and telling the exciting but tragic story of the horses in the U.S. Civil War. Unfortunately, Gilbert had no Civil War uniform, but he was recruited to help with setup and safety during the cavalry demo. Without the uniform, it was hard to tell whether he was a Union soldier in the 10th New York, although, given his Acadian roots, he could just as easily have been a Confederate from Louisiana. Ruth made a video to share with the world.
After a very successful Northwest Horse Fair, Gilbert and Ruth headed to Yoncalla, Oregon to visit John Hartley’s Storybook Horse Farm. It’s the largest Canadian Horse breeding farm in the United States. John and his fiancé, Alexis, were very gracious hosts. The weather had improved enough to allow a Kubota tour of the ranch, visiting the various bands of horses, including the cheeky yearlings, gorgeous stallions, and of course, the mares. One had a little filly, Zoe, by her side, and they hoped that another one of the mares would foal during the visit, but she held on until several days after their departure. The Kubota eventually got stuck in the mud with Gilbert and John aboard, thanks to weeks of unrelenting rain, and so did the John Deere sent to unstick it, but a helpful neighbor showed up with a come-along and everyone was back to the house in time for dinner.
The trip home was uneventful, and 2012’s trip to Oregon is now a fond memory. Gilbert and Ruth made some great new friends, both Union and Confederate soldiers as well as fellow Canadian Horse enthusiasts, and had a wonderful time.