Sydney Horse Expo at Centre 200 this weekend.
For Ralph Gillis, raising and training show horses is a passion as well as a business.
And the Blacketts Lake horseman couldn’t be more pleased to be taking part in this weekend’s inaugural Sydney Horse Expo at Centre 200 in Sydney.
“A lot of people don’t realize that we have a very successful horse community here in Cape Breton, so this is a chance to promote it and show people that there are opportunities locally if they want to own or ride horses,” said Gillis, who was found at Centre 200 helping to set up for the three-day event. With the first horses due to arrive from Ontario late Tuesday, workers have already dumped more than 700 tons of dirt on the floor of the downtown venue and have also covered a portion of the back parking lot that will be used as a practice facility for the horses, which will be housed in a corral behind the arena.
Gillis, who will have a number of his own quarter horses at the event, said the expo and simultaneous trade show have plenty to offer.
“There is much more to horse shows than just jumping — that’s just part of it — there will be lots of different exhibitions, competitions and demonstrations to check out,” said Gillis, whose daughter Christy is an award-winning competitor.
Immediately following Friday evening’s opening ceremonies, 10time Olympian Ian Millar will take to the floor of the arena for the first of his four Horse Power Trick Riding performances.
The 68-year-old Millar, known in equestrian circles as Captain Canada, will be joined by Amber Marshall, star of the television series “Heartland,” for both of his shows on Saturday. The actor, who is an accomplished rider in her own right, will be available to meet with fans after each performance. The first annual event also features demonstrations and competition in a variety of disciplines, including reining, barrel racing and pole bending. There will also be exhibitions of both western and English pleasure riding.
“Our intention was to showcase the variety of horsemanship that is available in this area, as well as to celebrate and acknowledge the long-standing relationship this area has had with horses,” said expo committee chair Joan Reid.
Meanwhile, a trade show will be held for the duration of the event in the main concourse of Centre 200. “This is a great event for us to host as it is a multi-use facility,” said facilities manager Paul MacDonald.
“It’s hard to believe we’ll be putting the ice back in a couple of weeks.”
For now, the ice can wait — Cape Breton’s largest recreational facility will soon be alive with the “yays” of the crowd and the “neighs” of the performers.
Local horseman Ralph Gillis stands beside a bale of hay in front of the temporary corrals that have been erected behind Centre 200. The venue is hosting the inaugural Sydney Horse Expo that will take place from Friday through Sunday.
Amber Marshall, star of the CBC television show “Heartland,” is seen in this photo. Marshall will be attending this weekend’s inaugural Sydney Horse Expo at Centre 200.