Creatively Reimagined Woodside Day of the Horse Events Helped Horse Lovers Ride Out the Pandemic

With the rallying call “Let’s ride this out together”, Woodside-area Horse Owners Association (WHOA!) volunteers worked for months to create a Day of the Horse weekend like no other.

This year’s 16th annual celebration – anchored by the second Saturday in October – came after seven months of life changes due to the COVID pandemic and hot on the heels of the worst wildfire season in living memory.

Knowing the important place Woodside Day of the Horse holds in the hearts and on the calendars of equestrians and local residents, the WHOA! steering committee and dedicated volunteers were unwilling to simply cancel this year’s events in the wake of pandemic restrictions and regulations.

Instead, they creatively reimagined every event, with compliance and safety first, but family fun with horses equally at the forefront. Imagination and technology were pulled out of the toolbox and put to work with outstanding results.

Why was this so important? Woodside Day of the Horse reflects the mission of WHOA! to preserve the fundamental role of horses in maintaining the rural character of the Town of Woodside and neighboring foothill communities, to enhance opportunities for equestrian activities, and to promote the enjoyment of horses in all their various roles.

In today’s challenging times, the role of the horse in helping humans through the ups and downs of life has never been needed more. This year’s unique Woodside Day of the Horse events proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Online Equestrian Art Exhibit

Last year’s Woodside Art of the Horse exhibit at Woodside’s Independence Hall was a runaway success. This year, artists and local residents alike were thrilled when WHOA! announced this online alternative to last year’s public gathering. The silver lining: Now even more equestrian and art enthusiasts can access all the art, all the time.

A call for local artists went out in the months leading up to the September 31 entry deadline. Ultimately, more than 100 submissions were accepted, including painting, photography, collage, and sculpture. Voting by the public followed, culminating on Saturday, October 10, when the top 12 were selected to appear on the WHOA! calendar for 2021.

Winning artwork included: New Beginnings, photograph, by Lisa Frey; Freckle’s Baby, oil on canvas, by Rebecca Holland; Herd of Wild Horses, oil, by Cheryl Pape; Horse and Hound #6, acrylic on canvas paper, by Susan Silverman; Wild Wind, oil, by Janet Ferraro; Stampede, acrylic on canvas, by Grayson Martin; Hindsight, oil, by Samantha Morrison; Overcoming Fear, oil on canvas, by Aleksandra Szymanska; Stampede Miracle, acrylic on paper, by Elizabeth Parashis; Electro Horse, acrylic, by Gonzalo Flores; Lucas, colored pencils by Natalia Pleshkova; Paper Airplanes, fountain pen and ballpoint pen on Bristol paper, by Wallace Lin.

Watch the WHOA! web site and social media for the upcoming announcement of 2021 WHOA! calendar availability, with proceeds going to support community equestrian projects and programs.

Riding the Woodside Trails

During Woodside Day of the Horse’s 15 previous years, costumed trail riders traversed the trails through Woodside, covering urbanized Town trails as well as the natural wilderness of Wunderlich Park. On Saturday, October 10, the traditional Progressive Trail Ride continued its theme costume tradition with “Roaring 20s” interpretations that ranged from tuxedos and flapper fringe, to pearls and feather boas.

This year’s route was shortened and kept to Town of Woodside trails, with safely masked and gloved ride stop volunteers offering refreshments on sanitized trays to horses and riders. While horses enjoyed their carrots, riders chose from packaged snacks and bottled water, or sandwiches generously donated by Buck’s Restaurant, the Woodside gathering spot favored by equestrians and tech titans alike.

Social distancing requirements posed no threat to riding enjoyment, as safe distance between horses is routine among trail riders. Some riders even took a creative approach to face coverings and masks, decorating theirs in elegant “Roaring 20s” style.

Woodside Day of the Horse’s Progressive Trail Ride continued the fun of planning costumes and safely gathering with friends on the trail, despite the pandemic’s disruption, at this annual celebration of the joy that horses bring to life on the trail in Woodside.

Family Fun With Horses

Sunday, October 11, brought the first-ever drive-through Family Fun Horse Fair to the parking lot at Woodside Town Hall. Family cars, vans, and SUVs were lined up from the parking lot entrance down Woodside Road, eagerly awaiting the Horse Fair’s 11 a.m. start time. With free admission, family fun with horses was available to all.

Inspired by the drive-by birthday and graduation parades that have become the new normal, this year’s horse fair was designed to be enjoyed by families driving slowly along a route lined with horse fair exhibits.

Open windows gave kids and adults alike the opportunity to take photos and videos of exhibitors, and sometimes to pet a velvety soft muzzle as well.  Two and sometimes three generations of horse lovers saw the wide variety of horses and equestrian activities that make the Woodside area so unique.

First along the route, on the left, was Daisy, a Clydesdale mare exhibited by Harry Councell, giving visitors a glimpse of the Scottish draft horse breed that provided original “horsepower” to agriculture and transportation before the advent of the automobile. On the right, Petra Simms Sekerkova demonstrated in-hand dressage training with her Kladruber gelding Serpa, an example of the Czech breed named after the Kladruby Stud which continues a 500-year tradition of breeding horses for driving and riding.

Next along the route were examples of western and English riding horses, with Betsy Witter and her palomino American Quarter Horse, 24 Karat Bling, showing visitors the traditional western tack and attire so familiar to fans of western movies. On the left, demonstrating the contrasting English riding style, was Laura Stevens’ Bethan, a Welsh Cob that has been featured in many past Horse Fairs.

Turning left, visitors were treated to a demonstration of the sport of vaulting by the Woodside Vaulting Club, showing how young vaulters first learn the gymnastic moves on a vaulting barrel, before transferring those moves to the back of a horse.

Next door and shaded from the autumn sun, Patches the mini greeted visitors with her customary vivid costume and trademark welcoming attitude. Patches has been responsible for introducing the toddler set to the love of horses at many Horse Fairs, and this year was no exception.

A bit further along the route, a vintage bright red Ford Mustang and the late Carroll Ann Hodges’ custom one-horse trailer evoked a hint of nostalgia for earlier times, and a contrast to the horsepower of the Clydesdale seen earlier. Bridging the eras was an exhibition about the San Mateo County Historical Association and Museum’s Taube Family Carriage House Project, which Kaia Eakin explained will showcase the Museum’s collection of 30 horse-drawn carriages, as well as historic automobiles.

Next, showing how shoeing horses is done, today as well as in decades past, farrier Steve Wiburg demonstrated the art of “hot shoeing” with the patient and personable pony, Champ, who calmly stood for hoof trimming and shoeing, and even visited with children through open vehicle windows.

Local nonprofit National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy showcased two of their therapy horses, a Norwegian Fjord and a pony, dressing them in feather boas and jewels. Signage informed visitors about the range of programs NCEFT offers, in which horses help people through equine assisted therapy programs, while NCEFT’s Cherie Hammer and Matt Gridley answered questions.

Throughout the drive-through, visitors were treated to live music by Maryellen and Steve, perennial favorites at past Horse Fairs. As visitors finally arrived at the exit booth, WHOA! steering committee members gifted each vehicle with a goodie bag of horse-related information and souvenirs.

Adding to the excitement, cuddly plush ponies were gifted to each child, courtesy of Save A Pal, the new animal welfare organization founded by kids to support animal rescue organizations that match animal pals with their forever families. Save A Pal founders Sherry and Ethan Chen believe that ponies kids can cuddle at home brings to life their mission of connecting animal pals with loving homes.

WHOA! Donations Make A Difference

 Donations made by WHOA! to support the equestrian community are made possible through funds raised during its iconic Woodside Day of the Horse celebration and through its generous sponsors. Making a difference throughout the community are these donations:

Wildfire Rescue and Relief:  WHOA! understood the need to provide economic help for horses and equestrians devastated by this year’s unprecedented wildfires, and stepped up to donate $10,000 to help feed and care for horses displaced by wildfire. Working with the Woodside Community Foundation, WHOA! helped fund the extensive large animal rescue and relief efforts due to the CZU Lightning Complex Fire.

As Californians are becoming all too familiar with the need for stabling, feed, supplies, and care for horses, mules, and other large animals, organizations such as WHOA! are becoming ever more creative in finding novel and effective ways to raise funds and put them to work where they make the greatest impact.

Central Trail Bridge Project:  Woodside’s Center Trail has been used by equestrians for more than 100 years, but in 2017 the combination of torrential rains and upstream natural debris washed out the equestrian bridge over Bear Gulch Creek. Center Trail is an essential link between northern and southern segments of the Woodside trail system, so equestrian organizations and individuals stepped up with the community support and funding to make this project happen.

WHOA! is proud to have donated $25,000 of the $200,000+ needed to construct the new clear span bridge and trail segment that reopened in July to once again access this important Woodside trail.

Woodside-area Equestrian Merit Scholarship Award:  A deep interest in the next generation of equestrians and a commitment to helping them achieve worthwhile goals brought WHOA! and the Mounted Patrol Foundations (MPF) together to each donate $5,000 toward the $10,000 Woodside-area Equestrian Merit Scholarship Award. This scholarship award is especially relevant at a time when financial assistance with education expenses is even more important to the next generation of equestrians.

In June, from among a stellar group of applicants, Homestead High School senior Rebecca Refaee was awarded this scholarship based on her equestrian involvement, academic excellence, and contribution to the community.

COVID and Community Care:  Enhancing opportunities for equestrian activities is at the heart of the mission of WHOA! When the COVID pandemic turned life upside down, WHOA! took steps to support the local equestrian community by donating  $1,500 to a local equestrian program. Those funds provided a financial bridge to a more permanent solution for the economic challenges created by this pandemic.

Looking Ahead

Despite the challenges of our times, WHOA! pledges to stay on course to continue its mission of preserving the fundamental role of horses and to enhance opportunities for equestrian activities by promoting the enjoyment of horses in their various roles. WHOA! continues to welcome your support and donations at: https://whoa94062.org/

Contact:
Nan Meek
Nan Meek Equestrian Marketing
nanmeek@sbcglobal.net
650-823-1671

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