Teamwork & showmanship

August 17, 2018

Teamwork and showmanship took center stage at the Grand Stand Arena for the draft horse show Wednesday afternoon as a collection of Clydesdales, fjords, Percherons and mules strutted their stuff at the Northwest Montana Fair.

First to come trotting in was Sunny, the 10-year-old Clydesdale pulling her owner and trainer Brittany Williams in a two-seater carriage adorned with purple flowers to matched the horse’s purple feathered feet.

Sunny, a rescue mare, can often be seen toting her carriage to Super 1 for groceries or Burger King for a quick bite. On Wednesday, however, she entered her element, showcasing her skills by maneuvering various obstacles and racing against other teams.

Brother and sister Eleanor and Brody Cummings, 12-year-old twins from Kalispell, bounced in the stands, cheering for their purple-footed favorite from the stands as she took on a two-mule team in a pole race.

The twins and their friend, 12-year-old Dyson Linden, let out a loud “woo-hoo” as Sunny came out ahead, her driver waving to the crowd as she exited the stadium.

Father and daughter team Chris and Kayla Halvorsen enchanted the crowd with their gypsy horses, showing off the breed’s grace and beauty as they cantered up and down the arena, the horses’ manes and feathered hooves catching the wind as they rode.

Kayla threw in an added show of skill, riding her young painted gypsy bareback while keeping at the heels of her saddled father on his more experienced black steed.

The pole races took on an air of humor as a two-horse team of stocky tan fjords driven by Hugh Naldrett took on the team of two mules, this time driven by Woodside dressed as an ancient Roman soldier donning a feathered helmet and cape in a tiny chariot.

All three 12-year-olds stomped and whooped as their obvious favorite showed the crowd how the Romans do, winning against the young fjord team by a neck.

Each team took a step back into old western times to exhibit the skills needed to successfully complete a “dock and flag,” the horse and buggy equivalent of parallel parking.

Ray Woodside and his full team of six mules tactfully backed their large four-wheeled cart between four cones, successfully knocking a white bar off the back two and pulling back out for a flag maneuver that drew a loud round of applause from the stands.

A coal-black team of Percherons driven by Lonita Wainwright in a large red wagon performed a cloverleaf, circling around tightly placed cones with surprising dexterity and a prancing step.

Sisters Angelina, 12, and Shayla, 10, watched with their mom Colleen Hutchinson from the first row. The family traveled from their home in Southern California to Kalispell to visit the girls’ grandfather and watch what Colleen described as a “more county fair” than the one they skipped in their hometown in California.

Shayla, Colleen said, adores horses, and the trio planned to return Wednesday night for the rodeo.

Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or mtaylor@dailyinterlake.com.

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