11 hours of spectacular horse activities

Saturday, June 11, 2011, 12:00

Last Sunday was festa day at the Marsa racecourse.  Attractively adorned for the occasion and with flags fluttering in a rather hot breeze, the racecourse provided the location for the second edition of the Equestrian Festival – a variety of equestrian activities spread over the entire day.

It was a pleasure to watch not just seasoned old-timers but also a number of newcomers to the race-course most of whom came with their families to watch at least part of the activities on offer.  

For some it was the first occasion to watch certain types of equestrian sports and many were surprised at the number of disciplines that are practised in Malta. 

If some people expected the racecourse to be empty at the start of the Festival at 7am, they must have been quite surprised at the number of enthusiasts who were already on the stands. 

Indeed, pony racing was the first discipline on show and the enthusiasm and shouts of encouragement for drivers and ponies are not normally associated with a lazy start to a Sunday morning.

The traditional horse blessing ceremony was, as always, impressive and colourful.  A variety of horses participated, from the small Shetland ponies driven by children to the more sophisticated vintage carts still in immaculate condition and with their owners dressed in traditional outfits, truly reminiscent of days gone by.

Tradition then gave way to the grace and art associated with dressage and quadrilles, including an impressive Spanish dance performed on a horse.  One could not help wondering how many hours of training must be required to achieve the level of skill and co-ordination between horse and rider.

Team play is another feature of equestrian sports and this was featured through a hard-fought  polo match for the Cawnpore Cup, a beautiful, historic cup which is over a 100 years old. 

The afternoon was dominated by one of Malta’s most popular sports, i.e. horse-racing – featuring the horse’s speed, strength and dynamism as well as the driver’s talent and co-ordination with the horse he is guiding.

We saw some spectacular races first in the ponies’ challenge cups and then in the trotting and flat racing disciplines.  Tough challenges in the final straight and some dramatic finishes attracted enthusiastic shouts from the stands, with the crowd on its feet on many occasions.

But it was not just the sports activities which attracted the spectators.  A number of spectacular shows were also on offer, such as the In Guardia historical show and the colourful parade featuring horses, riders and flags.  These contributed to the variety offered to spectators throughout the day.

At the end of 11 hours of spectacular horse-related activities, the organisers (the Kunsill Malti għall-Isport, with the collaboration of the Malta Racing Club, the Malta Equestrian Federation and the Malta Polo Club) had good reason to be satisfied with the large number of smiling faces – young and old – leaving the race-course after enjoying a great day outdoors with their families, appreciating horses’ and riders’ skills and the various equestrian sports practised in Malta.

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