By: Brittany Bevis
Sometimes, considerable travel is required if you want to attend major horse shows that are located across the country. From Oklahoma to Texas and California to Arizona, major events like the World Show, Sun Circuit, and Silver Dollar are definitely located closer to some than to others. Oftentimes, show management will offer a special prize to the competitor who has traveled the farthest. If that’s the case during the Florida Winter circuit, Blair Woodley and his crew from Sudbury, Ontario will have won, hands down.
Just before Christmas Day, horse trainer, Blair Woodley, embarked on what would end up being a 30 plus hour journey from Ontario to Tampa for the Florida Gold Coast Quarter Horse Circuit. When he left his home in Ontario, the temperature was -30 Celsius, or -22 Fahrenheit. Contrast that to the current temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit currently in Tampa, and Blair was facing not only a 30+ hour drive but would also undergo a 102 degree temperature difference!
To provide a little perspective, Sudbury is located about 400 miles north of Niagara Falls. Taking a trip that results in the final destination being a few hours south of Mickey Mouse territory required some definite layovers.
“I wanted to do two layovers, so I contacted Brent Maxwell, and he lined a stop for me in Findlay, Ohio with Art O’Brien,” Blair says. “The second one was with Ronnie and Vicky Kent in Graceville, Florida. Ronnie had invited us to stay while we were at the Congress. We met them while showing at the Select World Show a few years ago.”
Blair and his wife, and Select competitor, Judi, have made the trip to the Select World Show in Amarillo, Texas twice before, but this epic journey would be considerably different.
“There are totally different concerns with summer travel,” Blair says. “I normally keep my barn heated with lights on and just one horse had to be body clipped. This trip, I drove alone and everyone else came in after Christmas. The trip took 30 plus hours with the initial snowstorm, Nashville football traffic, and some construction.”
Up until May of 2018, Blair was a part-time horse trainer and a full-time worker in the nickel mines of Sudbury, which he had done for 40 years. Upon his retirement, he decided to set off for some bucket list shows that would’ve ordinarily required too much vacation time to attend. The Florida Winter Circuit was one of those bucket list events.
Blair and his crew have already competed at the Florida Gold Coast where Judi was named the Reserve Circuit Champion in Level 2 Select Trail and customer, Christine St Jeane, placed in the Top 10 in Select and Level 1 Trail and Select Showmanship and in the Top 5 in Level 1 Showmanship. Four horses joined Blair on his journey: two for select amateur clients and two for amateur clients that compete in all-around classes. Blair, himself, will be competing in Trail, Western Riding, and Halter.
Currently, the Woodley crew is competing at the Florida Gulf Coast and plan to head to the Fox Lea Farm Winter circuit in Venice next before making the long trek once more back up to Ontario. Or, they might decide to stay in the sunny south for a while!
If you have a great story that we should cover, email B.Bevis@EquineChronicle.com.