The Scene: For horse enthusiasts, your carriages await

  • The Hawaii Carriage Driving Society held a club activity last Saturday in Waikii.

Some of us were born and raised here, some of us were flown in, but eventually, Big Island residents, one and all, come to realize e komo mai is more than just a pleasant greeting, we actually welcome diversity as an advantage of living here.

It’s everywhere, from the tallest mountain to the deepest ocean, from glorious blue skies to long days of heavy cloud cover and rain.


Even in our activities, while our isolation prevents pro sports from landing here, we recognize just about everything else under the sun. From canoe racing to strongman contests, to a vibrant collection of drag race enthusiasts, runners, climbers, you name it, we have it.

But did you know about the carriages?

“There aren’t a lot of us, that’s the truth,” said John FitzGerald of the Hawaii Carriage Driving Society, a group of horse and carriage owners almost exclusively confined to the Hilo side, “but we tend to take it pretty seriously.”

These are people who train their horse drawn carriage teams regularly at Panaewa Equestrian Center, but on the horizon is the event of the year, an American Driving Society sanctioned “Training Show,” Sept. 21 on the polo field at Waikii.

The mission of the Hawaii Carriage Driving Society is to “promote the art and skills to train carriage horses/equine, skill to drive a carriage equine, rebuild carriages, demonstrate to the general public this art and activity.”

It’s a different discipline for horses, but through training they are able over time to negotiate courses and compete for the best times, though the horse isn’t actually aware of the competitive aspect.

“Our challenge is to be as smart as the horse,” FitzGerald said. “They learn gradually, over time, but they live in the now, they have no concept of tomorrow, next week, or two hours from now.

“But they remember everything from the past, and I mean every little thing. So, in that sense, it’s like any other athlete, it’s about practice, practice, practice, and that horse wants to go out of its way to please you, as long as it understands what you’re doing and agrees that it’s a good idea.”

The event consists of negotiating a series of cones 72 inches apart with a tennis ball sitting on top of each one, and yes, the idea is to not knock off the tennis ball.

“It’s all done in a controlled manner,” FitzGerald said, “it’s a matter of a trot through the course and if a horse breaks into a canter, it will be disqualified.

“There are actually more horse people (on the Big Island) than people realize,” he said, “but our group is relatively small, we have 17 paid up members, but we think when people who own horses come out and see it for the first time, they see how fun it can be, if only just from a spectator standpoint.”

The event will be held on the Waikii Polo Field, starting at 10 a.m. and concluding around 3 p.m. with a potluck lunch around noon. For further information, call FitzGerald at 808-987-4947.

Obstacles ahead

In the big picture, every athlete, every individual who desires to get in better shape, whether it’s committing to a daily walk or jog, or a gym membership, faces obstacles.

But one of the new things in exercise and athleticism these days is the challenge to engage literally with physical obstacles, not just the mental ones, and make them part of what you do. In some sense, it’s reminiscent of those military clips we have all seen of troops running up to walls to climb, ropes to hop over or get on your belly and crawl under.

A Vermont company, Spartan, has organized obstacle course challenges that are taking off all over the world, according to their website that proclaims it is “for those willing to mentally and physically push to achieve their personal best, Spartan is a catalyst for transformation — pushing you beyond what you thought was possible.”

Yes, it’s all about getting out of that comfort zone. Some of the success of these new competitions, which Spartan says are happening in 42 countries around the world, no doubt touch on your childhood memories of climbing, crawling, getting dirty and having fun.

Lance Tominaga is owner of Sunrise Athletics running club with his wife Mary Jane, and they are in their ninth year of working with young runners, leading up to Sunrise Community Fun Run that awards a $1,000 scholarship for graduating high school seniors.

But this one, he just had to try. The course is brutal, with 28 obstacles of all kinds. There are walls, hurdles, a ‘super wall,’ monkey bars, a log carry event, rope climb, fire jump, you get the idea — this is a serious test that demands endurance and strength.

“I really, really enjoyed it,” he said of the event, called the Hawaii Trifecta, a week ago at Kuala Ranch on Oahu, “it was the most challenging event I ever participated in.”

It required a little over 2 hours 30 minutes for Tominaga to complete the course that includes some running, but running in deep gravel uphill? Rope climbing? There are all manner of events to test virtually every muscle in the body.

Sunrise Athletics organized an obstacle course last year and it plans to expand on it somewhat for the event in June of 2020, but replicating the Spartan course would be a challenge.

“We have plenty of room for it,” Tominaga said of the Big Island, “but so much of this stuff has to be constructed, it’s big and heavy and you can’t just move it around and put it in someone’s garage.”

Tominaga said he’d love to see a relatively comparable event on the Big Island, but it would require a lot of land and someone willing to create and maintain the obstacles — a large undertaking.

On the other hand, if someone were to do that, it would turn into a profitable venture with the variety of clubs and businesses and competitions that would be interested in it as a team bonding discipline.

Stay tuned.

Badminton renewal

Registrations are rolling in, but there’s still time to sign up for the 46th Annual Hilo Open Badminton Tournament, scheduled for next week, Aug. 30 and 31, at the Hilo Armory, with the possibility of some play on Sept. 1 dependent on everyone getting finished Saturday night.

“We’re getting some new teams from Honolulu that haven’t been here before,” said tournament director Dean Ishimoto. “As of now, we have three returning doubles teams, but expecting more.”

Returning champions include, in the upper division, the Hilo teams of Kimo Keliipaakaua and Shaye Keliipaakua (mixed doubles), and Mark Taketa and Nia Faulkner in the lower division (mixed doubles).

Ishimoto said the Open included 35 individuals last year and, near the end of this week, had about 30 signed up.

The tournament begins next Friday at 6 p.m. with mixed doubles competition, and then it’s all day Saturday with double and singles competition that should conclude the event, but if there are enough entrants, the space is available to finish Sunday, if necessary.


For more information, contact Ishimoto (938-8785) or

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