The AFHA 25th anniversary celebration: ‘From War Horse to Movie Star’

If ‘success’ means reaching a goal, accomplishing a task, or otherwise accomplishing what they set out to do, we can honestly say, the AFHA 25th anniversary celebration was a huge success! By: Enny van Aken, Photo’s: Carrie Wagner and Miles Maldaner.

On October 19, 2022, the whole Calnash Ag Centre in Ponoka, Alberta was available to the AFHA members. In the early morning hours the horses, carriages, props, tack and harnesses were brought in. Clean stalls and tack rooms were waiting. The arena was set up. Sound and light technicians were getting ready. The bleachers were clean, the V.I.P. area was set up; all in anticipation of their guests.

Riders, drivers and volunteers started their busy day. Several performances needed a test run. Last instructions were shared with regards to the timing of the event, which was crucial to keep the flow consistent during the evening program.
4:30 pm – The participants enjoyed a catered meal. A little later this was also available to the sponsors and special guests.
5:30 pm – The doors were opened, spectators started to walk in and find their seats. It felt like a never ending lineup of people who all came with serious expectations about the event.

The Friesian horses were ready: groomed, polished and trained. The performers were
eager to finally be able to present the acts they worked on for so long…
6:30 pm – The curtains opened, music started, spotlights moved through the arena. When 6 flag carriers, 2 landau-carriages with a four in hand hitch entered the arena in front of an over 800 people counting crowd, it made for a truly impressive Grand Opening!
The Dutch and Canadian anthems lifted the roof and after a word of welcome by AFHA president Jaap Dominicus, the show began.

For 3 hours spectators were treated to a huge variety of presentations, including musical rides, dressage, different hitches, derby driving, the Alberta Quadrille……just to name a few. Every element was clearly introduced and explained by the announcers and supported by fitting music and lights for every separate presentation. That applied especially to the production “From War Horse to Movie Star” in which the history of the Friesians was played out and explained in a 15 minutes lasting drama, performed by Friesian horses and many actors, using props, costumes and special carriages to let the story come alive.
When the clock showed 9:40 pm it was time for the Grand Finale. All participants (37 AFHA members and 42 volunteers) and their horses (43 Friesians, 8 Draft Horses and 6 Quarter Horses) entered the arena to thank all 836 spectators and the sponsors of the event for their tremendous support!

What made this show so successful?

I want to say that the main ingredient is called ‘vision’, which the organizers developed over time while working out their plans. Mix that with the beautiful horses, dedication, commitment and enthusiasm from the AFHA members and the volunteers, and the outcome is guaranteed!

In closure the words as printed in the show program booklet:



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