Dean Rheinheimer and Michel Vaillancourt Talk About Horse Shows by the Bay
Traverse City, MI - July 23, 2008 - Today kicked off week two of Horse Shows by the Bay here in Traverse City, MI. With a full schedule of competition and events, week two is sure to be just as busy as the first. The show runs from July 16-August 3 at Flintfields Horse Park.
After all of the talk about the wonderful new Team Elmer's Grand Prix ring, the fantastic footing and the great courses, Dean Rheinheimer and Series II Grand Prix course designer Michel Vaillancourt were kind enough to take some time out of their busy schedules to speak about the show and their jobs.
Dean Rheinheimer is not only the manager of Horse Shows by the Bay but also a course designer and footing expert. After spending his childhood on a horse farm in Indianapolis, IN, Rheinheimer started out doing jump crew and soon moved into doing the footing at many top-level horse shows. After fifteen years of doing horse show footing, he decided to become a manager and not too much later, decided to try the whole managing venture on his own project. With his wife Alex and many others involved, Horse Shows by the Bay was started.
French-Canadian course designer Michel Vaillancourt was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. He has had a long riding career full of great accomplishments. Vaillancourt not only won a medal at the 1976 Olympic Games with the Canadian team, but also became the head of the Canadian Olympic team as their Chief d'Equipe. About fifteen years ago Vaillancourt started getting into course designing more and more and he now travels all over North America doing just that.
Growing up, both Rheinheimer and Vaillancourt knew that they wanted to work in the horse industry.
"When I was sixteen years old I did a survey for 'What do you want to do?' and I put on there, 'Manage horse shows and be a course designer," Rheinheimer said. "So I am sitting here with a course designer and I am a manager, so I guess that is close enough for me."
Vaillancourt always knew that he wanted to be a rider and had a passion and a natural talent that made it easy for him to achieve those dreams. "If I had not been a rider, my next best choice would have been an architect," Vaillancourt said. "So now that I do course designing, where you need to be a horseman and in order to put it all together I guess you need to be a little bit of an architect as well, I sort of hit the mark dead on."
Vaillancourt and Rheinheimer both had a part in the building of Horse Shows by the Bay's new Grand Prix ring. The original plan was for a rectangular ring, but after Vaillancourt suggested doing something a little different, it ended up more of a peanut shape.
"We moved so much dirt," Rheinheimer said, "somewhere around 800,000 yards of dirt. I had the vision of what it would all be, but it turned out a lot better than I thought."
"I knew that I wanted it with the amphitheater seating because eventually we would like to do outdoor concerts and benefit concerts and stuff like that here. We would like to be able to use it for different things other than horse shows, also to try and get the public more into the show. I figure that would be a good way to pile people in and get their interest in what is going on out here," he added.
As for the fantastic footing that everyone has been raving about, Rheinheimer believes that a good non-abrasive base is key and that all the additives and fibers that a lot of people use in footing do more harm than good. All the rings have thirteen inches of Aglime spread out across them, which is then packed down to eleven inches, Rheinheimer explained. This is then left to sit for about three weeks before the show and then sand is spread out the Saturday before the show starts.
As the course designer, Vaillancourt really appreciates having such good footing in a ring. According to both men, the footing changes a lot of factors in the design of a course.
"To wrap it up in a nutshell, the footing affects the way horses travel," Vaillancourt said. "Really deep footing will slow horses down, if the footing is very slippery then I would eliminate some of the sharp turns, if the footing is really heavy going then they are going to have a harder time coming off the ground and they are not going to be able to make the width as easily or the distances, especially in the combinations."
"The footing has a major impact," he continued. "The one thing that is nice about this show is that the footing in the ring is very similar to the footing in the warm up ring, so the horses go from one surface to another that is very similar; they do not have to adapt and they are ready to jump the first line and the first jumps without all of a sudden realizing that something is different. That is a really good thing."
He went on to say, "From my point of view as a course designer there is nothing worse than worrying about the horse slipping or what is going to happen if it rains. Yesterday when I arrived here it was pouring rain. We set the course in the pouring rain and the ring looked like a lake, but walking on it you could tell that you could have jumped on it. It was not so pretty to look at, but by the time I got here this morning it looked perfect. The water was gone and it was like nothing ever happened."
Thanks to Rheinheimer and his expertise, the sloppy ring conditions were never an issue. Dragging the rings with a float, which is basically just a piece of board, helps to smooth them out after a busy day in the rain, he explained. "It is just like how a concrete worker floats water to the top to make the concrete heavier and set up. Underneath it is just as solid as can be. That is the whole concept behind the float and that is what I did to all of the rings last night. They look bad, but underneath, walking along, they were consistent. Consistent footing is the best footing out there, I do not care what kind it is - if it is consistent it is the best. If it is six inches deep in one spot, then make it all six inches deep and the horses will have less problems than they will on inconsistent footing."
With excellent courses, a brand-new ring and consistent, well-manicured footing, Horse Shows by the Bay is definitely a good horse show to compete at.
"There are still a lot more plans coming to this place. There are still a lot of phases that we have not hit yet," Rheinheimer continued. "I want to give credit to my wife Alex too; she works really hard. She is constantly working on the show. She works hard and is very organized. She is more of the paperwork and the organization, and I am more of the grease monkey. I like to do things myself rather than ask someone to do it. That is probably why we get along; that is why we get it done."
For more information on Horse Shows by the Bay and the fun events planned for competitors and spectators alike, please go to http://www.horsesportsbythebay.com.
Photo Credit: Brand new Team Elmer's Grand Prix ring at Horse Shows by the Bay Photo (C) 2008 LAUREN FISHER. This photo may be used free of charge only in relation to this press release.