Mane event

Syd­ney Horse Expo at Cen­tre 200 this week­end.

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID JALA

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.

DAVID JALA/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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.

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