An Old Dutch Horse Event: Ring Riding

Featuring the Annual Ponoka Ringsteken


By Enny Van Aken

January, 2021


“We look back on a spectacular show, lots of enthusiasm from participants and spectators,” says Doeke Hoekstra from Ponoka. His wife Sita adds, “It felt so good to be able to organize this!”

On July 25, 2020, the Hoekstra’s, together with their daughter Loekie Van Dobben, organized the first ever ring riding event in Ponoka, Alberta. Doeke said, “I always wanted to do this. It used to be such a big part of our summers in Friesland (the Netherlands) and I had this dream that it could be done here as well.”

A Lively Tradition

Ring riding in the Netherlands is part of the summer festivals in the different towns. People join to compete while riding horses or driving different style carriages. They use a variety of horse breeds and besides that, they all dress up to participate in the costume class.

The rules: The organizers set up four poles in one straight line on a street downtown. On top of every pole there is an arm with “a hand” that keeps up a one-inch ring. Riders and grooms hold a short, pointed wooden gun with which they try to take the ring from “the hand” while trotting along the poles in an upbeat tempo.

If successful, they show the ring to the judges before dropping it to the ground and try to fetch the next one. If the horses don’t trot fast enough the judges apply a penalty. The value of the rings increases with each round. After four rounds the judges announce the winners.

Cooperation Along All the Way

Loekie, “When we got serious about organizing this event we approached the Town of Ponoka. We got their co-operation in every possible way. They gave us permission to close off a few streets, to set up a trailer for the judges, to play music during the event… long as we would leave the area the way we found it. Well, that was the green light we needed!”

On July 25, in the early afternoon, six drivers using different carriages, eight pairs hitched up to a Friesian sjees and four riders under the saddle participated in the Ponoka ring riding competition. The Friesian horses showed off their strongest gait. Beautiful costumes and creative outfits added to the show. The sun came out and made for perfect conditions to take in the event. 12 volunteers made sure everything flowed smoothly and fairly. Prizes were donated for all participants. The winners were honoured with flowers.

Welcome Entertainment

Approximately 200 spectators came out, all in their own space, abiding to the Covid 19 social distancing rule. That day Ponoka was buzzing, “finally something to do again…” The Friesian horses, accompanied by other breeds, did impress the crowd. As one spectator worded it, “This brings back so many memories. I already cried! My dad loved the Friesian horses, and this was his favorite sport!”

As AFHA members and our driving friends we thank the Hoekstra family for organizing this day! We thank the volunteers for their help to make it happen and last but not least, a big “thank you” to the town of Ponoka!

We all look forward to the second yearly Ponoka Ring Riding Competition in 2021!


This article was also featured on FHANA News.

Video from AFHA

First Annual Ringsteken Event in Alberta, Canada


Photos from AFHA

2020 Annual Ponoka Ringsteken - 2021 Annual Ponoka Ringsteken

AFHA's Other Stories

Enny Van Aken is an AFHA member and regular writer for AFHA, owner of Friesian horses, avid driver in indoor and outdoor derbies, driver in the Alberta Quadrille, and a loving mother and grandmother.


Alberta Friesian Horse Association