Anza Lions Club’s 1st 2020 gymkhana trots off to a great start

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Kiera Fith, 12, shows off her mother’s horse Honey’s newest saddle decorations and fancy bridle before the Anza Lions Club gymkhana event. She rode Honey in all the day’s events. Anza Valley Outlook/Tony Ault photo

Anza’s gymkhana riders, large and small, young and old, and their horses were excited and more than ready to compete for the prized silver buckles at the Anza Lions Club first seasonal gymkhana Saturday, June 6, at the Lions’ Minor Horse Arena.

The 33 riders and their horses did their best to get the fastest times in the traditional gymkhana keyhole, pole and barrel race contests to win points toward the end of the season prizes with the silver buckles going to the best riders in each category. Some points earned at the Lions’ gymkhanas may be used by the riders in the regional competition, many of which had to be canceled earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lions gymkhanas are open in all age divisions including lead line, under 1; Pee Wee, ages 1-7; intermediate Junior, 8-12; juniors, 13-17; seniors, 18-39, and old timers, 40 and up.

Cloudy skies don’t deter the Ted and Shannon Fink family as Kyle, 15, on Champ and Delaney Flemming, 10, on Burger prepare to compete in the Anza Lions Club’s first gymkhana Saturday, June 6, at the Minor Horse Arena. Anza Valley Outlook/Tony Ault photo
Many of the 33 Anza Lions Club’s first gymkhana entrants and their horses gather for the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the national anthem during opening ceremonies at the Minor Horse Arena. Anza Valley Outlook/Tony Ault photo
The Lions Club gymkhana contestant and her horse show how it’s done and make good time in the keyhole race during the first gymkhana of the season. Anza Valley Outlook/Tony Ault photo

The riders’ excitement at being able to hold the Lions gymkhanas again was apparent with Larissa Fith and her 12-year-old daughter Kiera, who sat atop her mother’s favorite horse, “Honey.”

Kiera, with a big grin said, “This is really fun.”

She was sitting on Honey for the first time and said she anxious to do her best in the keyhole event and other competitions.

No less happy to be back at the Lions area were members of Ted and Shannon Fink’s family, including Delaney Flemming, 10; Bradie Fink, 9, and last year’s silver buckle winner Tyler, 15.

“It is really great to be back,” their father Ted Fink, who earlier in the week drove his water truck to help prepare the gymkhana area for the first seasonal event, said.

Upstairs serving in the announcing stand were Lion Roland Vellanoweth, gymkhana chairman and announcer, and Mimi Brown, president of the Anza Lions Club, and volunteers.

The first gymkhana riders signed up for the events at $10 in the announcer booth and purchased tickets for a hamburger and hot dog lunch served on the barbecue below.

“I didn’t expect this many riders, seeing the kind of day it was,” Brown said, signing up another rider.

Junior Gymkhana and 2019 Silver Buckle winner Kyle Fink, 15, on his horse Champ, make good time maneuvering through the poles event at the Lions Club gymkhana. Anza Valley Outlook/Tony Ault photo
Junior Gymkhana and 2019 Silver Buckle winner Kyle Fink, 15, on his horse Champ, make good time maneuvering through the poles event at the Lions Club gymkhana. Anza Valley Outlook/Tony Ault photo
An adult leads a little Pee Wee gymkhana horse rider through the lead line event. At the Anza Lions gymkhana, youngsters, ages one to seven, can compete in the Anza Lions Club gymkhanas lead line events with their parents or a helper holding the horse during the ride. Anza Valley Outlook/Tony Ault photo
A senior rider who was thrown from her horse in the Anza Lions Club gymkhana picks herself up after losing her boot during the spill. She finishes the event with her horse. Anza Valley Outlook/Tony Ault photo

The day started cloudy and cool, but it ended in rays of warmer sunshine later. She said she also didn’t know what the turnout would be like, since many residents remained at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For the riders, the day on the track was described by one participant as “so soft and beautiful.” There were no injuries outside of a few lost boots and an embarrassing spill or two by the riders.

Villanoweth said he was very pleased with the turnout which will help the Lions fund for their charitable events during the year.

“We almost spent all our money this year on food for the residents who couldn’t leave their homes because of the coronavirus stay-at-home orders,” Villanoweth said.

He said Lions bought most of the food themselves with the help of Common Ground, another charitable organization serving Anza Valley residents.

Brown said the purchase of the Lions gymkhana tank tops, sweatshirts, T-shirts and bandanas will help with funding gymkhanas and other charitable events this season. The sweatshirts are $25; tank tops and T-shirts are $15 each, and bandanas are $5. They can be purchased during future gymkhanas – July 11, Aug. 8, Sept. 5 and Oct. 15 – at the arena or be preordered online at http://www.anzalionsclub.org. Contact Mimi at 951-763-7075.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.