Athletic horses part of KC show

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A true athlete is a showcase of raw power and beautiful grace that is harnessed into one amazing being.

Whether it’s Jamaal Charles eluding tacklers or Gabby Douglas contorting her body through the air, the combination of all forces produces a highlight reel of amazing feats. It’s that type of athleticism that has guided Fred Kahn to the show ring, and why he’s so excited to be part of the American Royal’s Hunter/Jumper Horse Show scheduled for next week at the American Royal complex.

AmericanRoyal“We are dealing with another living being, in this case a rather large, energetic, four-legged furry animal, that has a mind and skill set of their own,” Kahn said, referring to how well horse and rider perform inside the show ring. “To be able to communicate with and promote the best out of a horse is a very satisfying goal.

“When the horse and rider are working on the same wave length, the end result is rather magical.”

Kahn is president and owner of Kahn Steel Co., but he’s been a horseman most of his life. In fact, he’s been part of the American Royal Hunter/Jumper Horse Show for the past half-century, sharing his passion for the sport and for the amazing animals that make it such a showcase.

“I was foaled and raised in Kansas City and started riding on my uncle’s farm,” he said. “He used to take us to watch the Royal when I was 8 or 9 years old. Eventually I started riding bareback on a wild pony named Silver, fox hunted and played a little polo. I moved into taking some lessons jumping horses and never looked back.”

That’s a good thing for those who share Kahn’s passion. Like many, Kahn realized that the animals, too, have a desire to showcase their athleticism. When it is combined with a rider of great talent, it’s an amazing display.

“You feed off that horse’s passion,” he said. “The idea is not to take away from the horse’s natural energy and instincts, but more to channel, control and focus their energy, because that’s how you get the best performance. For those that train systematically and really hone their craft, the athleticism and the artistic side merge.”

That beauty and power will be featured during the week-long festivities, which include the Hunter/Jumper A Rated Show from Tuesday-Saturday, Oct. 15-19; the $20,000 Grand Prix at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16; The Hunter Derby Return to Glory Party at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18; the $5,000 Hunter Derby at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18; the Special Children’s Horse Show on Friday-Saturday, Oct. 18-19; and the $25,000 Roy A. Edwards Memorial Grand Prix at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19.

“Hunter/Jumper people are coming in to Kansas City from coast to coast, as well as Mexico and Canada,” Kahn said. “We get a top-level group of horses and riders. Oftentimes we will have Olympics mounts and have Pan American Games riders and horses and other international competitors.

“The American Royal has a great reputation for being a show for the exhibitor as well as the spectator. We have first-class show management, judges, jump crew and office staff, with a willingness to put in the extra effort to make things go smoothly and professionally. Great care is put into the footing in each show ring, and the jumps that are a part of the course. Much of this top-shelf attitude is a result of several generous sponsors that help the show operate on this level.”

Those are the things that make Kansas City’s show special, but the athletes provide plenty of incentive for those interested in enjoying the sport.

“For the Grand Prix, the fans are going to expect cutting-edge excitement,” Kahn said. “When they view the hunter rounds, they’ll get to experience the grace and the beauty of the top hunters and their way of going.

“These riders that come to Kansas City are true ambassadors for the sport. Anyone can feel comfortable asking them for an autograph or ask questions of the top riders. If they want, they can walk through the stalls and see the great horses and, with permission, they probably can even give them a pat.”

Those are some of the benefits to the best in the business making the American Royal their home throughout the week. The hunter/jumper show is an opportunity to see the raw power of an animal that weighs at least half a ton while understanding the beauty that comes through each maneuver.

“To me, it’s fascinating that this is not a sport of pure strength,” Kahn said. “The average person will weigh somewhere between 100-200 pounds while riding these 1,000-plus-pound animals. Oftentimes the smaller, lighter person comes out with the better prize as size does not matter. It’s not gender specific. Women ride as well as the men; girls ride as well as the boys.

“It’s really a sport of rhythm, timing, communication and lots of hard work. Like just about everything else, those that work hardest tend to be the most successful.”

And those that work hardest make sure they’re part of the American Royal Hunter/Jumper Horse Show every year, because they know they’re part of a prestigious event.

Special gathering: The Hunter Derby Return to Glory Party is a new event designed to help raise awareness and funds for the Hunter/Jumper Horse Show and the American Royal in support of the association’s mission to raise money for education and agrarian values. It will take place at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18, in the Governor’s Room at the American Royal complex.


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