OTTAWA-Just seven months old, Aritzia captures the best-in-show prize at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Scott Nowoselski reports.
Imagine if the Miss Universe crown was won by a pre-pubescent girl.
Believe it or not, it happened last weekend, except that the girl was a seven-month-old horse.
On Saturday, Aritzia, from Four Leaf Farms horse breeding farm just outside of Richmond, claimed the Grand Champion Canadian Sport Horse award at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, taking the best-in-show prize in a field that included dozens of older horses and full-grown stallions.
Aritzia, who tips the scales at about 400 pounds and stands about 14 hands high, won’t even be fit for riding for another three years, but she makes up in attitude for what she lacks in stature, owner Danielle Gregoire said.
“She’s a real princess,” Gregoire says. “When she gets into the ring, she wants people to look and notice her. It’s really ‘all about me’ when she’s out there.”
Gregoire and husband, Ed Stewart, run the Four Leafs stable, which has a dozen horses, including Aritzia and her mother, Licorne.
Coming from a small town in Eastern Ontario, Stewart said they never expected to take the top honour in North American horse breeding.
“We’d never even been to the Fair before,” Stewart said. “We had high hopes heading in, but we never even imagined we’d win it all.”
Along with the award, Stewart and Gregoire received an underwhelming prize of $85, much less than the more than $1,000 they spent just to transport Aritzia to the weekend competition, but Gregoire maintains she wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.
“You’re not in this for the money,” she said. “Horse breeding isn’t going to make you a millionaire. You’re in it because you love horses.”
To help pay the bills, Gregoire works in the Ottawa airport’s payroll department, while her husband holds things down at the farm. The couple hope that Aritzia’s big win will draw attention to the genetic strength of her mother and stir up business at their breeding operation.
The farm might not be known to most of the outside world, but showman Ron Davidson maintains he saw potential in Aritzia and Four Leaf Farms more than three months ago.
Davidson, who has been presenting horses at the Royal Winter Fair for almost 40 years, said even then he could see Aritzia was destined for greatness.
“She’s like a beautiful woman,” he said. “When she enters the room, you have to turn and look.”
Davidson has won numerous Grand Champion titles, but says this latest triumph is one of the most special.
“I’ve done an awful lot at the Fair,” he said. “I thought I’d won just about everything there was to win, but this is something else.
“To see a baby win this award, it’s amazing. This is truly an amazing horse.”
To cap off what has been a crazy week, Gregoire will celebrate her 36th birthday today.
“This is definitely an amazing birthday gift,” she said with a laugh.
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