Something for everyone
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - November 14, 2018 - 12:00am

Saddle up, keep your britches on and enjoy the 10th annual Clark Horse Festival at the El Kabayo Grounds in the Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga, on Nov. 17 and 18 with host Sheriff Gabby LaO promising a weekend of fun, food and festivities guaranteed to make this year’s event the most memorable ever.

“There’s something for everyone,” said LaO. “Bring your family and friends. The Horsefest is an earmarked Clark Freeport activity and begins with the traditional grand entry parade of horses, carriages, floats, ponies, iron horses, mopeds, bicycles and whatever transport and movement equipment you can imagine this Saturday. It’s a two-day affair that will include competitions like traditional barrel racing, artistic equestrian ride to music, mounted games, harness racing and more. Also, the Mad Dog Motorcycle Club will host the 13th annual poker run and the 2018 cowgirl beauty and talent pageant. We’re offering various hotel accommodations and tourism activity locators of the Greater Clark Vicinities and an array of food and restaurant centers. We’re providing horseback riding, tiangge shopping, fireworks display, campfire camaraderie and other variety entertainment and fun activities.”

LaO, a former La Salle and Ateneo varsity football star whose late father Rogelio was a champion basketball and football coach with the Green Archers, is the custodian and caretaker of the El Kabayo Riding Stables. Horseback riding has been his fascination since he was a boy and his interest in the Wild West was the inspiration behind his persona as the Horsefest sheriff.

“Almost everyone all over the world, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, have this remarkable romance with horses,” said LaO. “The Horsefest is a unique festival that tries to give life to this dream affair. It’s inclined to the Western cowboy but not purely. It’s also English, native or those with any kind of horse affiliation. It’s a combination of all to bring about a gathering of participants to compete and spectators to watch, enjoy and go horseback riding. We’ve partnered with enthusiasts of motorcycles or iron horses, motorbikes, mopeds, scooters or iron ponies and others to add more color to the event. No festival is complete without food exhibits, cooking-related challenges, fast food and local and international menus. We’ve got a variety of souvenirs for visitors and guests to take home.”

The pre-event program started last Monday with the arrival of various participants and contingents. All throughout the week up to Friday, LaO has arranged tours around the Clark Freeport Zone, a horse clinic conducted by the Australian Mounted Games Association, practice riding and trail rides for early birds. Organizers are busy setting up competition venues, exhibits and displays the entire week.

This Saturday, the main program kicks off with the grand entry parade. Then, it will be the poker run, horse exhibitions and presentations of contingents, the hunter/jumper competition, the Great Kalesa Challenge, the amazing selfie photo contest, the most uniquely dressed cowboy and cowgirl contest, the cowgirl beauty and talent pageant, bonfire and marshmallow roasting and a fireworks display by the Department of Tourism. On Sunday, it will be the equestrian ride to music, barrel racing, horse-mounted games, harness racing, campfire camaraderie and closing ceremonies.

Raffles and giveaways will be an extra treat. There will be various exhibits of assorted products and services, auction and selling of horses and ponies, sales of souvenirs, horse tack, merchandise, vitamins, feeds and other horse-related items.

The Great Kalesa Challenge will focus on the artistic talents of uniquely decorated horse carriages with the dressing competition showcasing the beauty and function of the calash. First prize is P5,000 while the second prize is P3,000 and the third is P2,000. Judging will be based on creativity (30 percent), concept (30 percent), presentation (20 percent) and appeal (20 percent). The horse-mounted games are the classic race and relays – hockey race, balloon race, egg and racquet race, Billy Can relay and flag race.

A fan favorite is harness or Tillbury racing. It’s also known as the Tiburin race, a one-kilometer contest on a flat surface between two teams on a two-wheeled cart where horses must use a particular gait of pacing or trotting. The equestrian ride to music features a rider displaying his riding skills with a horse to the beat of background music. In barrel racing, the rider and horse go up against the clock. The faster the rider completes the pattern, the higher his chances of winning. In the hunter/jumper competition, a rider negotiates an obstacle course of varying 12 jumps. Three winners will be chosen based on time and jump execution.

LaO said the Horsefest wouldn’t be on its 10th successive staging without the support of the Clark Freeport Zone, Department of Tourism, Clark El Kabayo, Mad Dog Motorcycle Club, Boy, Cub and Girl Scouts of America Troop 485, the Association of Clark Horsemen, Harness Horse Racers of the Philippines and participating establishments for guests, visitors and friends in and going to the zone. The Horsefest is surely a hoedown that can’t be missed. 

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