Feb. 17, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
South Carolina's annual Equifest Kids Day returns on Saturday morning, February 25, as the Gamecock Equestrian team hosts Auburn at OneWood Farm in Blythewood. All equestrian events are free to the public, as are the activities for kids, which begin at 9 a.m. with the competition following at 10 a.m.
“We’ve done this for quite a while now,” said head coach Boo Major. “We try to have one competition that is really devoted to the younger folks. This is an opportunity for the kids to come in and have more of a hands-on experience with the horses.
“It’s also for adults or high school age kids who might be interested in equestrian in college.”
Last year’s event drew more than 70 youngsters, and there will once again be plenty of activities for kids of all ages to enjoy, including tours of the barn, horseshoe decorating and a chance to feed the horses. Cocky will also be on hand for pictures.
“The kids always seem to enjoy it,” Major said. “All of the horseshoes we use came from our horses.
“It’s like getting a foul ball at a baseball game, except I think we have more horseshoes available than foul balls,” Major added with a laugh. “And you won’t get knocked in the head with one.”
Overall, Major said the goal is to continue to introduce the younger Gamecock fans, or horse fans in general, to collegiate equestrian.
“We want to introduce them to horses in general,” Major said. “Many of them have never touched a horse before. Horses are huge, but that doesn’t mean that they are mean or aggressive. They’re very gentle, for the most part. So when the horses come out of the ring after running and jumping, they love for the kids to feed them and pat them.”
It’s a sport where you throw a live animal into the mix, and that can really grab a kid’s attention and create a new experience for someone who has never been around horses before.
The family-friendly event exposes local residents to the program, and Major noted that you don’t have to know a lot about competitive equestrian events to have a good time.
“It’s like any sport in that if you don’t understand what is going on, it can be boring,” Major said. “You can say that about any other sport. So with equestrian, it’s a sport where you throw a live animal into the mix, and that can really grab a kid’s attention and create a new experience for someone who has never been around horses before.”
Equestrian posters will be available, and when not competing, some of the student-athletes will be available for autographs or simply to help the youngsters understand what’s happening.
“Because there are different competitions, a lot times our student-athletes who are done for the day will go into the stands and motivate the cheering, and we encourage them to tell people what is going on in the ring,” Major said. “So it’s very easy for fans to stop one of them and ask to explain what they’re doing.”
Major noted that an equestrian event can take several hours, so if fans can’t be there when the competition starts at 10 a.m., there will still be plenty to watch throughout the day.
“We’ll do equitation on the flat and horsemanship first,” Major said. “That’s more technical, but the good thing is that both teams are competing in the upper arena at the same time. So there’s a lot going on. We’ll do jumping after that, and we’ll end with reining. That’s the faster stuff, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.”
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