With his two Belgian horses hovering over him, Zane Pickering entertained questions from passersby.
“These horses are pretty majestic, so I guess that attracts people,” said Pickering, as he prepared them for their time in the show ring at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair (RMWF) “We have so many people stopping to look at them when we are preparing them for the show. Kids are always amazed at their size.”
The 109th Royal Manitoba Winter Fair was held from March 28 to April 2 at the Keystone Centre, housing an impressive display of equestrian events, entertainment, exhibitors and hands-on agriculture activities.
“This is a great event. We usually come to the RMWF as a warm-up to our competition season. We get some of our younger, more inexperienced horses involved to get them used to the travel and crowds,” said Pickering, who travelled with nine horses from Prince George, B.C. to take part in 22 heavy horse classes at the RMWF.
Pickering competes in the tandem and six-horse events and has been on the show circuit for the past four years, and at the RMWF the past two years.
His team of horses and drivers generally competes in six to eight different events every year and he says since he began in the competition circuit, there seems to be an increase in interest.
“There definitely seems to be more competition compared to when we started and there are more faces in the stands for sure.”
Although primarily an equestrian show, the RMWF also hosted ‘Thru the Farm Gate,’ an interactive showcase that strives to provide education about today’s agricultural practices.
“Our ag awareness area is a huge draw,” said Ron Kristjansson, general manager of the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba. “Part of our mandate as an ag society is to educate the public about agriculture. Particularly being in Brandon, where it’s maybe a bit more urban, we’re a bit of a link between the urban and the rural.”
Kristjansson said the organization works closely with the farm commodity groups and most are eager to participate, with presentations and booths that bring the section to life.
“It’s a great area,” he said.
The University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine was on site and offered attendees a chance to get a close-up look at animal organs, X-rays, microscopes and discuss animal health questions.
“We get a lot of inquiries about individual’s personal animals and we can talk in generalities but, of course we advise them to talk with their local vet,” said Myrna MacDonald, communications specialist with the college dean’s office. “Some people are curious about our research programs and how the findings help people in Manitoba and others want information on how to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.”
A crowd favourite in the Ag Awareness section appeared to be the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba display, where four dairy cows soaked up the attention and feed from fairgoers.
“The most common question we have been asked is about the tie stalls,” said Lindsay Medwid, representative from Dairy Farmers of Manitoba. “People are concerned as to why the animals are tied up and it really presents us a great opportunity to talk to them about certain processes in the dairy industry and why we do things the way we do. Of course, we also get asked if the brown cow is where chocolate milk comes from quite a bit as well.”
The RMWF also hosted a cattle show and presented a few cattle seminars with tips on preparing cattle for the show ring.
“Young people from area cattle shows and 4-H have been staging presentations to share insight about all that’s involved in raising cattle from birth to market,” said Kristjansson.