The 23rd annual High Desert Classics horse show is under way in Bend, where athletes are gearing up for tough competition, while the proceeds support local teen outreach programs.
Over 2,000 riders, owners, and trainers descend upon Bend's J Bar J Boys Ranch for the horse show every summer.
"It's just a very friendly place, and the people are great and it feels a little bit more festive than some of them," said Martha Crowley, a tourist from Washington state.
Organizers said while tourists boost the economy by about $2.4 million, and the riders are competing for cash prizes, it's also J Bar J Youth Services' biggest fundraiser.
"A lot of that money goes to support the kids and get them off the streets, or get them into the programs that are going to best help them," said Communication Director Amanda Gow. "Or match them with mentors, or get them the counseling that they need. So we're just here to support the kids."
The courses feature a variety of competition, some based on beauty and grace, others on the fastest time.
"The judging system in the jumping ring is: You go clean, you go fast, you win," said judge and announcer Max Von Zimmerman. "And it makes for a much better spectator sport for the people that come out to watch, because they can understand that a little bit better."
Many equestrians said it's the soaring feeling they get that keeps them coming back for more.
"There's no better feeling than when they're jumping in the air like that, connecting with a 1,200-pound animal," said competitor Travis Root.
Many riders agree it's a team effort that takes a very special bond between man and animal.
"We have to read the personalities of the animals and see how they feel every day," said Grand Prix winner Megan Jordon. "It takes a lot of intuition and a lot of thought to get the best out of an animal you can't talk to."
The Grand Prix kicks off Saturday at 4:30 p.m. The riders are competing for a $25,000 purse. The show wraps up Sunday with a mini prix at 1 p.m.
You can learn more at their Website: http://www.jbarj.org/ohdc/