Serious horseplay

Special to the Valley Sun

There is only one trauma center in the San Gabriel Valley and only one children's equestrian show dedicated to enhancing it.

The 89th annual Children's Horse Show will be held Friday through Sunday at Flintridge Riding Club. It is the longest-running children's horse show in the U.S. and the main fundraiser for the Flintridge La Cañada Guild of Huntington Hospital. For more than 50 years, the guild has run the horse show to raise money for the hospital and, for the third consecutive year, will earmark its donation for the new trauma center, the only such facility that serves the foothills.

The event is the largest Class A children's horse show on the West Coast. The class determines difficulty level, and this competition is one of the top shows in the U.S. The setting, oak tree studded Flintridge Riding Club, established in 1922, is the oldest member owned private equestrian club in California, said horse show chairman Kris Korkunis.

The horse show is required for children and young adults bound for the Olympic Games. Children from all over the Southland participate.

"It's a tradition," Korkunis said. "There aren't too many things going on in California for more than 89 years.

"We try to support our local merchants. Our wine tasting is being done by Russo wines in Montrose. All our printing is done by Printefex. Zeke's [Smokehouse] is catering it. We're not only supporting the hospital, but we're supporting our local community."

Children ages 6 to 18 will demonstrate their skills at riding and taking jumps.

Kendall Millard is a 15-year-old La Cañada resident who attends Westridge School in Pasadena. Millard has spent the past four years perfecting her horseback riding and has two horses, a chestnut Dutch Warmblood and a gray Mecklenburg.

She especially looks forward to the Prancing with the Stars event on Saturday night, a ringside dinner and children's precision riding show where the young equestrians — and their horses — are costumed.

"Last year at the Children's Horse Show my team, made up of three kids, won best costume in the tandem class," she said. "It was a huge trophy."

She and her friends dressed in an Alice and Wonderland theme last year. This year she will wear white in a Madonna theme and dress her horse in '80s fashion.

Along with dressing the horse for the Saturday evening event, the riders present a bribe basket to win over the judges.

Alex Batison, a 16-year-old from La Cañada who also attends Westridge, said she too looks forward to the tandem event.

"I'm not competing in [the event] myself, but I'm watching it," she said. "It's really unique to this horse show; no other horse show does anything like that."

Batison grew up attending horse shows and has been riding since she was 9. Now, she is old enough to compete in the children's hunters, a class division where fences are set at 3-foot jumps. Her horse, Doppler, is a 10-year-old Warmblood.

"It's really thrilling to jump a horse over fences," Alex said. "I always loved horses, even when I was little, because my mom's in the Flintridge Guild that puts on the horse show. My mom made me wait until I was 9, but I think I would have started earlier if she'd let me."

Admission is free to the daytime events, beginning Friday morning. On Friday evening the 10th annual wine tasting, featuring the Padre's Trail band, begins at 5:30 p.m. and is priced at $30 per person.

Prancing With the Stars will take place Saturday night. Cocktails will begin at 5:30 p.m. with dinner and the show following at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $100 each.

A silent auction will be held until 1 p.m. Sunday, with all of the proceeds benefiting Huntington Memorial Hospital.

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