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Secretariat’s birthday, local food and beverages part of equine festival

secretariatA farm-to-fork dinner, a brand-new Secretariat-themed beer, a birthday celebration and dozens of clinics, demonstrations and seminars are part of the March 24-26 Virginia Horse Festival.

The annual event at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County offers something for every equine enthusiast. Visitors will celebrate the birthday of racing legend Secretariat at his birthplace.

The eighth annual celebration of “Big Red” will include visits from members of the Secretariat racing team. Slated to join the festivities are Charlie Davis, Secretariat’s exercise rider; Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of Penny Chenery, who owned Secretariat; and Otto Thorwarth, who played jockey Ron Turcotte in the Disney film Secretariat.

Other highlights include a meet-and-greet with Groundshaker, the resident Secretariat great- great-granddaughter, and with Covert Action, a Secretariat grandson and “spokeshorse” for the local Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

Also part of the birthday events is the new Barn Appetit dinner on March 24. Chef Jason Alley of Pasture restaurant will highlight local foods and craft beverages. Pasture was just named the best restaurant in Virginia by Southern Living magazine.

Barn Appetit is “an innovative way to serve up both agriculture and history,” noted Marlene Pierson-Jolliffe, The Meadow’s vice president of operations. “The Meadow Event Park, as the home of Secretariat and the State Fair of Virginia, is the perfect venue for bringing ‘foodies’ to the farm.”

Barn Appetit participants will be able to sample a newly released beer by Goochland County’s Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery. The Imperial Red India Pale Ale is named Secretariat’s Meadow in honor of Meadow Stable, where the great champion was born and raised. It will be the first in a series of Secretariat beers produced by Lickinghole Creek; the three remaining beers will be released individually during 2017.

For those more interested in horses than the food or beer, there are plenty of options. Guy McLean, an award-winning Australian equestrian performer, will bring his highly trained team of Aussie horses to the festival on Saturday evening. The two-time World Champion Colt starter will take festivalgoers on a journey to the Outback and introduce them to traditions of the Australian bush.

Other demonstrators include Richard Shrake, who is known in the industry at the “Trainer’s Trainer” and the “Ultimate Coach.” He will present daily sessions on “Ground Work Communication with Your Horse” and “Riding Success for All Disciplines.”

There also are opportunities for festival-goers to bring their horses and participate in clinics. One is with Stephen Bradley, who trains off-track Thoroughbreds and turns them into international competitors.

Other demonstrations will focus on dressage, cowboy mounted shooting, trail riding and ranch sorting. Advance tickets can be purchased at VirginiaHorseFestival.com.

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