April 11

Emma Loop, The Windsor Star | Jul 02, 2013 | Last Updated: Jul 02, 2013 - 7:06 UTC


This year's Harrow horse festival was a chance for local riders to strut their skills, but it was also a chance for the Windsor-Essex Hospice to spread the word about a new county facility.


Hospice executive director Carol Derbyshire said her team found out Wednesday that the province had approved the funding needed to build a tenbed residence on the campus at Leamington Hospital.


"We want people to know that hospice is for the county, it's not just for the city," she said.


Derbyshire said the province is handing the Hospice of Windsor and Essex County, a place people call home during times of intense illness, $92,000 per bed - or $920,000 total - for the new Leamington residence.


The third annual Harrow Rock 'N Horse Festival included a Sunday parade down the town's main street that required horseback participants to raise money for the hospice through pledges.


About 10 hospice volunteers in matching white T-shirts rode through the town aboard a hay-covered trailer as well, throwing handfuls of blue rubber bracelets to the scarce clusters of people who braved the rain and lined the road to watch the procession.


The hospice is looking to recruit around 110 additional volunteers to help clean, cook, and entertain at the future Leamington residence.


Profits made from paid parking at Cider Mill farms, festival headquarters, were also being donated to the hospice.


Derbyshire said last year, the hospice raised about $8,000 at the festival for patient and family programs. She said she didn't have an exact figure yet on how much was raised this year, but that she's optimistic the number will be similar.


Pat Laing owns Cider Mill Farms in Harrow with her husband, Dewar, and has put together the Rock 'N Horse Festival for the past three years. She said the idea for the event first came from a desire to rally around five farm employees battling breast cancer. "We really wanted to do something to show our support," she said. Friday's events, which included more riding competitions and live music, benefitted the Breast Cancer Society of Canada.


But for Laing, it was also about drawing attention to the region's kicking horse industry. She estimates that there are at least 5,000 horses in Essex County alone, but said locals aren't aware of the area's equestrian shows because they "aren't very well publicized."


"We just wanted everybody to get together in the horse community and hopefully create a tourist draw as well," she said.


Laing said the event cost around $80,000 to put on this year and requires her full-time attention starting as early as January.


The festival, now a part of the Dodge RAM Rodeo Tour, brought in about 200 horses from across Ontario, Michigan, and Ohio, Laing said. For rookie rider Danielle Wise, 12, the Sunday afternoon horse jumping competition was a chance for her to get a glimpse of the local countryside.


Danielle and her 14-year-old sister Megan Wise moved to Kingsville in February from Yellowknife. Danielle, standing along the white fence at the end of the course with her sister and two grandparents, said watching the horses leap over the wooden obstacles is thrilling. "It's something I want to learn to do," she said.


Hundreds lined the white fences at the farm, many wearing hats or shirts with Canadian flags, to watch the afternoon show as country music hits played on loudspeakers.


The crowd cheered the riders on, and occasionally chuckled at a clumsy pet dog running a scaled-down version of the course.


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tags: harrow, hospice, horse