In contrast to the pouring rain on Saturday, Sunday was a warm and sunny day for the 25th running of the Willowdale Steeplechase.
A highlight this year was the Miss Nancy Nicholas Memorial Side Saddle Race ("2 miles over timber"), in which the jockeys wear old-fashioned jackets and ankle-length skirts (and, fortunately, modern protective vests and helmets) and ride and jump with both of their legs on one side of the horse, rather than astride. We were in awe of the skill, balance and strength of these amazing equestrians. The winner was Julie Nafe on Mccradys, owned and trained by Lauren Schock.
We've been to Willowdale many times, but by happenstance this year we found that the best vantage point for watching the races is really on top of the hill. True, you don't get the close-up view of the horses galloping by, but you do get to see a lot more of the race course.
Socializing is, of course, a big part of the steeplechase experience, and I thank the folks who fed us (and very well). The tailgate displays were lovely, with scrumptious-looking food and beautifully arranged flowers. One nostalgic party of tailgaters came dressed as 1960s hippies, complete with headbands, love beads and leather vests, and brought along a bubble machine.
The energetic little kids, many carrying stick ponies, are always fun to watch, as are the canines. One Lab was having a great time splashing around in the creek near the fence line, and we spotted a huge mastiff, a Bernese Mountain Dog, a Vizsla, several dachshunds, and a very handsome Rhodesian ridgeback. We weren't sure what breed the latter was until we saw the distinctive line of whorled, against-the-grain fur on his back.