If ever an entity embodied Brandon Tourism’s "Brandon brings you back" slogan, it would be the Canadian National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show.
The ninth instalment of the championship to be held in Brandon kicked off on Sunday, bringing competitors from across the United States and Canada.
According to Gerald McDonald, chair of the Canadian National Show Commission, Brandon is a great fit for the event.
"It’s central for us — it’s a good facility," McDonald said. "Everything’s connected really close. The hotel’s attached to the facility, which makes it really convenient for us."
According to McDonald, more than 800 horses have signed up to compete in this year’s championships. With two to three people per horse on average, there are at least 1,600 to 2,400 people in Brandon for the event.
Setting up for this event is a 12-month process. "We’re not actively doing it all of the time, but we’re always actively thinking about it or being involved in one way or another," McDonald said. "Soon as this show is finished, we’re thinking about next year’s show — in fact, we’re probably already thinking about it."
The Arabian Horse Association runs four shows a year, with the other three being in the U.S. McDonald said the Arabian show in Brandon is the largest breed show in Canada.
The Canadian Arabian Nationals are so important in the horse world that their performance at the event affects breeding programs.
With so much importance placed on this show, it’s easy to understand why some people come from so far away to show off their horses.
Molly Schwister came from Hudson, Wis., with the McConaughey Training Centre to compete in Brandon. On Sunday morning, she was braiding the forelock of one of her barn’s horses, named QH Marrakesh.
"I really wanted to show at a national-level horse show, and I wanted to do it out of the States, and this is a really big horse show for us," Schwister said. This isn’t her first time at the show in Brandon. "I like the quality of horses and the people here, and it’s a really good atmosphere to show in."
Her barn brought nine horses and 15 people to compete in Brandon. Schwister will be personally showing on Monday, Friday and Saturday.
Coming from Farmington, Mo., were the people from Kare Free Farm, who came on the strength of the show’s reputation.
"We’ve always heard what a fun show this is and what a beautiful area this is and how it’s a great atmosphere to show horses in," said Kathryn Lewis. "We just decided this year that we’d make the trip."
After 17 hours of driving, she’d already earned two ribbons from semi-final trail-riding events.
The Canadian National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show runs until Aug. 17 at the Keystone Centre. Admission for attending events is free.
» Twitter: @ColinSlark