The Horses Are Coming! The Horses Are Coming!
The posters hung around town announced ‘The Horses Are Coming! The Horses Are Coming!’ and soon after, like a travelling circus, tents flew up overnight and the great graceful animals stamped upon the competition grounds. By 2006 the Hayes family had been running Collingwood’s International Show Jumping tournament for 21 years, having expanded from two days into two weeks; they moved their operation to Nepean, Ontario, just south of Ottawa, for four years, and this year are coming home to launch the inaugural Orangeville Show Jumping Tournament.
“Ottawa just wasn’t our hometown,” says Ainsley Hayes, the middle of three daughters, and who heads up most of the administrative responsibilities of the tournament. A family-run operation, the Hayes were based first out of Cheltenham and then Schomberg, and today live on just shy of 48 acres in Mono. To celebrate their return, this first tournament will have a ‘homecoming’ theme.
“This is home,” says Ainsley. “We really are part of the community.”
Ainsley was 13 years old when she first took on the task of pulling the show together. “I, being the nerdy 13-year-old, said ‘I can do it’,” she recalls. “And my parents said, yes, you can. Go out there, hire who you need.” By 17 she had assumed full responsibility for the operation.
“We are a family company.”
It’s an event the entire Hayes family takes part in putting together. Horses run deep in their history: Jay Hayes, Ainsley’s father, is a two-time Olympian who brought Canada to the spotlight in 1992 upon his horse Zucarlos in Barcelona; her mother Shawn, a Winnipeg native, was also born into horses.
“We are a family company,” says Ainsley. And a family company that cares deeply about its roots; the reason they kept putting on shows after outgrowing Collingwood is because “it was our way to give back to the community,” she says. “And we really want to involve the community here.”
The community is giving back – in sponsorships, in participation and in exposure. “We’ve gotten a lot of support from the town, and we can’t be more pleased,” says Ainsley.
The inaugural Orangeville Show Jumping Tournament took place in 2012 at the Orangeville Agricultural Society Event Centre, featuring international-level competitors in both jumping and hunting events.
“Horse jumping combines the excitement of slalom downhill skiing with the agility required for jumping,” Ainsley explains. “It’s a combination of horse and rider: you’re dealing with a huge animal, whose natural ability is to jump, but who has its own brain.”
Where jumping commands the competitor to clear all obstacles within a set amount of time, hunting is judged based on style and show.
“These animals are high-level athletes,” Ainsley says. “It’s competitive. It’s thrilling.”