This Weekend in Stanly County
By Bridget Huckabee
Surely there is no prettier place than Stanly County on an Easter weekend in April. The trees wear fresh greenery, flowers bloom, the lakes look like blue silk, and over all this beauty is a sprinkling of gold dust. Okay, so that gold dust is pollen, but even that is part of Mother Nature’s plan for future beauty.
The two big events this weekend are an Easter Egg Hunt at Albemarle’s City Lake Park Amphitheater and the International Horse Trials at Norwood. Both events are free and they offer an excuse to get out and enjoy the county’s beautiful countryside.
Thursday is the start of the four-day Fork Farm and Stables International Horse Trials. The Fork Farm is host to The Fork Horse Trials each year in the spring and this year the event will take place over the Easter weekend. It’s a grand place to bring the entire family for a really exciting time in beautiful surroundings. The Trials take place from 8 am to 8 pm each day.
This event is essentially an “equestrian triathlon” of Dressage, Cross Country and Show Jumping. The Farm hosts approximately 350 competitors from across this country and around the world. There will be young riders competing in the lower divisions and International medalists preparing for the 2012 Olympics in London. This is a wonderful opportunity to see these incredible athletes, human and animal, up close and in person.
The Dressage Phase takes place on Thursday and Friday April 5 and 6. This begins the competition and is a test to demonstrate communication and harmony between the horse and rider. This takes place in an arena and the judge awards horse and rider both positive points and penalty points during the test. The points are computed to arrive at a penalty score. The horse and rider with the lowest penalty score is determined the leader going into the next phase which is the cross country phase.
The Cross Country Phase tests the horse and rider over varied terrain and obstacles, including water, ditches, banks etc. within a given time limit. This is a true test of obedience, jumping ability, bravery and fitness. Again this is scored on a penalty basis, penalties being incurred for refusals and time over the specified time allowed. This score is added to the dressage score from the previous day and carried forward to the show jumping phase.
The Show Jumping Phase is the third and final phase of the competition. Horse and rider must jump a course of obstacles in an arena. Unlike cross country jumps, which are solid fixtures, these jumps are portable and can easily be knocked down. By day three the horse and rider have been competing quite hard so this is a true test of stamina, as well as agility and precision. Here again, penalty points are given for knocked rails or seconds over the allotted time. The winning horse and rider in each division is determined by combining the penalty points from each phase, lowest score winning
All three phases are extremely spectator friendly. There will be bleachers by the dressage arenas on Thursday and Friday plus a Ladies Champagne Dressage Luncheon in the VIP tent located next to the CIC*** dressage arena on Friday. This is a very nice lunch and there will be a prize for the “Best Hat”. There is a charge for the lunch; however, there is no charge to come watch these great athletes.
Saturday there will be lots of activities at the Fork Farm for the entire family with a children’s area with pony rides, face painting and Easter egg hunt, and a vendor row and several food vendors.
And that other big Easter weekend event is also on Saturday when the Albemarle Parks and Recreation Department host Albemarle’s biggest annual Easter Egg Hunt. This event is at 11 am at the City Lake Park Amphitheater. Ages 10 and younger will find treats left by Mr. Bunny, who will be on hand for pictures. There will be prizes for each age group for finding the “Golden Egg”. Don’t be late!