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Horses strut their stuff for charity in Edison

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

EDISON, Ga. -- Competitors describe it as an addiction. Observers call it poetry in motion.

Whatever the viewpoint, the 43rd annual Billie Lane-King Cotton Charity Horse Show Saturday in Edison was a family affair.

"I like to come out and watch my daughter and granddaughter ride their horses," said Bill J. Jones, of Bainbridge. "My daughter started riding, I think in the fourth grade. She used to have a seat behind on her saddle for her daughter when she was 2."

Jones' granddaughter Haley Lane, 17, described riding her horse as an addiction.

"It just gets in the blood," Lane said. "The ride is so smooth and the horse is so nice."

The riders spoken with all described their walking horses as gentle, well behaved and a pleasure to ride.

"This is an old term," said Suzanne Howell, of Thomasville, "But we call them a Cadillac ride."

The pace and gait the horses display in competition comes to them naturally. The judges look to make sure the horses all have one foot in the air as they go through their smooth rhythmic walking.

For all that, the looks of concentration while the riders were putting the horses through their paces seemed fierce. The competition had nearly $10,000 in prizes, not much when you divide it by 44 classes with three winners each.

The concentration and effort were more about pride, said Linda Jones, Lane's mother.

"There is some anxiety before the competition," Jones said. "You want to do your best to show the horse and winning a ribbon means you did."

The 3:30 p.m. competition allowed local amateurs to walk their horses. Later the professionals would saddle up.

"This is our 43rd consecutive show and last year we were voted by the Georgia Walking Horse Association as the top horse show in Georgia," said Dan Hammack, of Edison's Hammack Farms. "It is always a good show and fine day for our little community."

With more than 450 seats and bleachers Lion's Club members expected 800 people to watch the show horses through the day.

"I've been coming here to watch the horses since I was 4 years old," said Allen Price, of Edison. "I just really like the way these horses move."

The King Cotton Horse Show dates back to 1939. It was so successful that the Edison Lion's Club joined with the Lion's Club in Albany to move it to the larger city. World War II stopped the show and it was revived back in Edison in 1967.

A multitude of license plates could be tracked in the parking lot. Tennessee, Alabama, and many Georgia counties stood out on the vehicles.

Another feature of the show that was said to be a favorite among spectators were the Hackney Ponies. These ponies are smaller versions of the horses that pull sulkies in harness racing.

The jockeys that drive the horses in their smaller sulkies wear racing silks just like their counterpart jockeys in horse and harness racing.

"We line up like a race. We go round the track and are judged on looks and style," said Ken Rice, of Shellman, owner of several ponies. "It isn't a race, but the people seem to love it."