Annual two-day HorseFest rides high at Lake Metroparks Farmpark

May 20—It's off to the races this weekend.

Yes, the Preakness Stakes did take place at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. But additional action, a bit northwest and a tad less frenzied, also drew scads of equine enthusiasts, minus the gambling junkies, to HorseFest at Lake Metroparks Farmpark in Kirtland on May 20.

One of the park system's signature events, HorseFest showcases multiple breeds while holding demonstrations and hands-on activities throughout the property that represent a time when horses were vital to transportation, working livestock, establishing villages and cities, and influencing cultures.

Training techniques and riding disciplines, in addition to a variety of dressage freestyle performances, games, and presentations, seized guests' attention with an array of nostalgic, mythic, and practical exhibitions.

"We have some really cool riders this year, some of whom have come back," said Equine Manager Susan Townsend. "There are a lot of opportunities for visitors to see just how different these animals can be and all that they can do."

Lady Thor (Kellie Rittenger, co-owner of Whispery Pines Percherons in Kingsville), the American Dream Riders, the Wild Dream Trick Riders, the Trumbull Career Technical Center, and others, also appeared undertaking many challenges, including Roman riding, obstacle courses, and mini-parades.

A "Horse and Hound" relay agility team also ripped around the arena.

"The Greatest Showman"-themed musical ride, however, took the cake, Townsend said, as she, portraying a clown in the production, busily, happily played her part.

"That's another key to this event," she said. "With the history, of course, it's all about entertainment, up close and personal."

Another enticing element to the affair, Townsend added, is the ever-popular Canadian Governor General's Horse Guards Cavalry Squadron, which returned to the two-day equestrian event.

The Horse Guards, a reserve regiment of volunteer citizen-soldiers whose history dates from 1822, have been serving Canada continuously since WWII.

The squadron demonstrated its expertise as members Major P.J. VanAucken and Captain Andrew Zeitoun commanded horses General and Guardian during prep-battle skills maneuvers and training rounds.

"They're all wonderful features to watch," Townsend said. "We encourage everyone to come out to see for themselves."

HorseFest continues May 21 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Farmpark admission, $7 to $9, applies.

Farmpark members (with ID) and children under 2 are free. Active military and their families receive free admission with ID.

For event information, visit www.lakemetroparks.com/events-activities/events/horsefest.