Cherry Blossom Festival

Horses big and small part of Cherry Blossom show

A horse is a horse, of course, but they come in all sizes.

That’s readily evident this week during the “Horses, Horses, Horses” show at the Cherry Blossom Festival. From a 1,500-pound Friesian named Dragon to a group of miniature ponies, trainer Lisa Dufresne is entertaining audiences with three daily shows.

“I call it a variety show of horses because you get to see all types of acts,” she said.

The 53-year-old Worcester, Massachusetts, native can’t put a date on when she became interested in horses. Her family didn’t have enough money for one, so she began saving up through odd jobs.

“I always loved horses. I don’t know why,” she said. “Over time, that was what I wanted.”

With those savings, Dufresne bought her first horse -- Cloud -- at age 13. It’s the only mare she’s ever owned, and she had the horse about 10 years.

“Of course we couldn’t keep it at home, ... so I found a place where I could board the horse in exchange for working.”

Now, Dufresne tours the East Coast with about a dozen horses, showing off their skills by riding them, handling them and allowing them to perform.

She likes stops such as the Cherry Blossom Festival because of the experience and the chance to talk to people from different regions of the country about their love of horses.

“It’s nice because we’re here for 10 days. We would never get to go to the Cherry Blossom Festival if we weren’t working,” she said. “You meet a lot of people, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Richard Mathis, a 69-year-old Gray resident, was among the people who came out to see Dufresne’s afternoon show Wednesday, which was cut short by rain. Mathis said his upbringing in rural Telfair County is the reason he’s drawn to horses.

“I was raised on a farm,” he said, noting that he drove carriages that his neighbor owned when he was younger. “Horses are great.”

The afternoon crowd didn’t get to see much of Dufresne’s show, but they got to see her ride Dragon. Despite his size at 16 1/2 hands, or about 5 1/2 feet at the shoulder, Dragon showed agility and a quick step.

Those attributes make Friesians ideal for dressage, horsemanship in which Dufresne has won gold and silver medals at the national level.

“Of course they’re beautiful ... but they use them more and more for dressage,” she said. “Their natural gait is very fancy.”

Dufresne and her horses will be in action at 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. daily through Sunday at the north end of Central City Park.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.