The Friesian Horse Show, celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Friesian Horse Association of North America (FHANA) was two years in the making and the results were not disappointing.
“It is a big milestone,” said Japp Dominicus, Ponoka-area local and member of the Alberta Friesian Horse Association (AFHA), a chapter under FHANA. The AFHA was the organizing committee for the anniversary celebration.
Japp and his wife Wilma Dominicus have a dairy farm west of Ponoka on Matejka Road.
The day-long show, held at the Calnash Ag Event Centre on July 16, was very well attended, with an estimated 750 people coming for the events throughout the day.
FHANA is a chapter under KFPS, (Dutch for Royal Dutch Friesian Horse Studbook), the authority on Friesian breeding in the Netherlands, where the breed is originally from.
Officials from KFPS were in attendance at the celebration, including the chairman, who was “very pleased with it,” said Dominicus.
The organizers received a lot of positive feedback and compliments, from both FHANA members and just members of the public who came to see the show.
With a variety of events, demonstrations and shows, there was something for everyone and the ag centre was packed with standing room only for much of the day.
The crowning event of the day was the Friesian quadrille, a choreographed show with eight coachmen driving Dutch carriages called “sjezes.”
Another crowd-pleaser was the team driving derby, a timed event that had spectators on the edge of their seats as drivers expertly maneuvered their teams through obstacles.
There were also performances from the Meadow Creek Vaulting Club from Olds, Alta. and the AFHA musical ride, a prince and princess ride, and many more before a closing parade late that evening.
The performances and clinics showcased the versatility of the breed, demonstrating their grace and agility in a variety of disciplines.
Originally used for farm work, they are now bred for dressage and for riding, and Dominicus said, “They are very good for both” and are even used for driving bulls.
They have an easy-going constitution, nice character and are easy to handle, he says.
Using the Calnash Ag Event Centre “worked very well for us.”
The state-of-the-art ag facility, along with the work of 90 volunteers, both locals, AFHA members and visitors from the Netherlands who came to help out, made the event a success, he says.
Volunteers worked behind the scenes to make sure transitions were quick between events, clean up after the horses, to work the lights and sound system and more.
On July 17, Dominicus says the weather was perfect for the “Experience Rural Alberta” coach bus tour. There were three bus loads of people who signed up for the tour beforehand and enjoyed visits to a dairy farm in Lacombe that also breeds Friesians and a farm in Blackfalds where they stopped for lunch.
The tour was then treated to a bull riding demonstration at a bucking bull ranch back in Ponoka. Four bull riders gave them a behind-the-scenes look at bull riding.
The tour goers were made up of Dutch visitors, some Americans as well as local people.
The day ended with a banquet at the Stagecoach Saloon.
FHANA has come a long way in 35 years.
The Friesian horse breed, originally used for farm work, were almost extinct at a certain point.
Friesian horses began to be exported all over the world and are now found in 17 countries, says Dominicus.
Each chapter under KFPS undergoes stringent inspections.
The official studbook is in the Netherlands and officials travel all over the world to ensure breeding rules are being adhered to, assuring the future purity of the breed.
FHANA now has a few approved stallions for breeding, and that is “a very big thing,” said Dominicus.
“It’s a big accomplishment.”