Some fine equines

On Saturday night, nearly 4,000 people are expected to descend on the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank for the 10th annual Fiesta of the Spanish Horse extravaganza.

The annual fundraiser to benefit cancer research will feature about 300 horses and 600 handlers competing in a variety of programs meant to showcase Andalusian, Lusitano, Peruvian Paso and other types of Spanish horses, which have continually made the festival a destination for equine fans from around the world.

“We have people here from Spain, from Peru, from Las Vegas, Oregon and Washington,” Program Coordinator Joanne Asman said. “We thought we would be down this year because of the economy, but it’s been great. This is a family event. Once they come one time, they’re hooked.”

The event, which started Thursday and continues through Sunday, annually attracts a diverse group of horse riders and fans who gush at the festival and the horses it honors.

“I’ve traveled all over, and I think this is the best,” said Tom Reed, who has trained horses at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament for more than 20 years. “The Spanish horse was bred for the kings of Spain, and this brings all breeds of Spanish horses into one show.”

One of the those horses is a 1,400-pound Andalusian named Despierto, which towered over a black-caped Reed during a practice run before Saturday night’s festival.

The gray and black equine calmly galloped around an oval patch of dirt as her owner, 17-year-old Hayley Perkins, marveled at the grace of a horse she discovered in Spain.

Three years ago, Perkins crisscrossed Spain in search of a replacement for a horse the Providence High School student had ridden up until its retirement.

“I was looking around and saw him being washed and asked about him,” she said. “I had to have him.”

Perkins, via her mother Nancy King, paid 20,000 euros for the horse, which she then brought back to Los Angeles to ride in past fiesta’s and last week’s Burbank on Parade, she said.

Visitors Saturday night will be asked to pay an entrance fee between $25 and $50 and will have the opportunity to bid on 39 silent auction items, the proceeds of which benefit the American Cancer Society.

Restaurants, celebrities and local retailers offered items for the auction, set to start at 6 p.m.

The items include four tickets to the “Dr. Phil Show,” donated by Dr. Phil McGraw; an autographed song book, CD and photo from Sheryl Crow; and a $100 gift certificate for Lawry’s Prime Rib Restaurant.

But for Asman, the event is about more than gifts and horses.

“It’s about taking in all the history and culture and teaching it to the public,” she said. “This is a special event.”


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