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Hood River Classic saddles up

The air near Mt. Hood fills with thousands of soft thuds today as horses clop to and fro in Jensen Mills Meadow during the 11th annual Hood River Classic Hunter/Jumper Horse Show, which runs through Sunday.

On Monday the meadow was a great deal quieter. An occasional whinny drifted past the empty stalls, and from time to time a new trailer would pulled into the meadow.

If the atmosphere felt sleepy, though, it was far from relaxing for members of von Zimmermann Stables as they prepared their barn for the 17 horses that would begin arriving Monday night.

“I’m liking that I got front row center,” said owner Mary von Zimmermann of Lake Oswego, gazing at the mountain from the lawn at the end of her row of stables. Zimmermann won last year’s Hood River Classic Grand Prix with her horse Espoir Herpiniere, but she won’t be defending her title this year. Now that Espoir Herpiniere has been sold, Zimmermann is busy training two more horses, one of whom she hopes will be ready to compete next year.

“I’ve been at the Classic almost since the beginning as a rider, and in the last five years as a trainer,” said Zimmermann. “The show has always been very well run.”

She busied herself with the canvas covering one of the stalls, and Ashley Caldwell and Korina Winkler helped prep the area by cleaning and setting up the canopied lounge area with head groom Jose Estrada.

“This is the first year I’m not showing my horse,” said Caldwell, who has competed in the Classic during the last five years and is riding for Zimmermann this year. “This is a cool show, since all the kids are just getting out of school and are excited to be here.

“But you do have to work your butt off,” she added, hauling some carpeting along the grass.

“This is kind of the kick-off show for the summer,” said Zimmermann.

Caldwell expressed her love for the view, and Winkler noted that when most of one’s time is spent in the Meadow, dinner is the most exciting thing to look forward to during break.

“The taco truck at the end of the row is my favorite part of the show,” Winkler laughed.

More than 400 of the region’s top hunter/jumpers are attending the Classic, a benefit for the Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital Foundation. It’s also a sanctioned event of the Portland Rose Festival and is A-rated by USA Equestrian.

Riders are competing for cash purses and other product prizes. The show culminates in the $10,000 Hood River Inn Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon, and boasts continuous action in five show rings, with around 50 divisions and over 200 classes of competition. The action begins at 8 a.m. each day and continues until the early evening, with derby competition in 50 age and skill divisions.

During the show, vendors are offering gourmet and home-style food, cocktails and other beverages, horse-themed specialty items, clothing and equipment, show souvenirs and more.

There is no admission fee to attend the Classic today or Thursday. Friday through Sunday the cost will be $2 per person or $5 per car. A limited number of patron tickets, which include open admission to the show, reserved seating in a canopied area with refreshments, a Friday evening Northwest Salmon Bake, and a Sunday Grand Prix Gala, are available for $65. For more information about the Classic call 354-2009 or visit the show’s website at www.hoodriverclassic.com. Jensen Mills Meadow is located near the community of Mt. Hood at the intersection of Highway 35 and Leasure Road.

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