Twenty-three riders between the ages of 15 and 55 competed in the National Grand Prix of this year’s Santa Barbara horse show, capturing the astonishment of an astonishing crowd as they watched their horses attempt to outrun jumps better and faster than their competitors.
But after two rounds, there can only be one winner: Zaco Harden riding a Caracas, taking home the $10,000 prize.
The Grand Prix was, of course, the exciting conclusion of the two-week event at the Earl Warren fairgrounds.
The event took place in the new arena on the night of Saturday 16th July, with a large crowd gathering to watch and cheer on each contestant.
“Viewers can feel the excitement and love that jockeys feel for their horses and this exciting event,” Horse Show officials reported in their July 22 news release.
After the first round, five riders came back to jump. The fastest clean run in the jump and the event winner was Mr. Harden and his Caracas horse. Mr. Harden is coached by his mother, Christine Harden, in New Koyama, who has won this competition in previous years.
The Santa Barbara National Horse Show, now in its 102nd year, was actually two two-week shows. The parade, a longstanding social event and tradition of Santa Barbara, was even bigger than last year, attracting more than 150 top competitors from California and Arizona.
The first week was Multi Breed Week. Ten breeds of horses competed. The highlights of the first week were the three $1,000 betting classes. All three tournaments are named in loving memory of longtime show director Ray Dean Stone.
Emily Grayson won the Play Dirty ride.
Bill Denny and Tabaco Moore won the $1,000 Hunter Pleasure Open.
Caroline Boone won the $1,000 Western Pleasure Open Stake at Storm The Beach.
The week also saw a Welsh pony show. New this year was the Perry Perkins Memorial donated by Susan Perkins. It was won by Kim Boyd’s Acapella Bay.
The second week of the show was Hunter/Jumper week. McKenna Skelton riding Sharon Park’s owned Guidetti was the winner of the $5,000 Tab Hunter Derby. The derby, named in memory of the love of Tab Hunter, a Montecito movie star who was a jockey and exhibitor at the Horse Show, was sponsored by Alan Glazer and Mary Jo England.
Notable events for the general public this year included free rides with occasional volunteers to learn about the horses, the contest, and the history of the Earl Warren Fairgrounds. Local families brought their children to meet the picture-perfect pony animals, called Bubbles. They enjoyed slices of pizza and drew little model horses to take home. This event was sponsored by Mary Ann Morrison Laughing Dog Ranch of Ojai.
“We look forward to seeing you all next summer at the 103rd Santa Barbara National Fair,” the officials said. Breed Week is scheduled to run July 5-8, 2023, with Hunter/Jumper Week set to run July 12-16, officials said. Mark your calendars.
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