At the Horse Show,

Jumping for Joy

What is it about little girls and horses? All we know for sure is that the love affair between two-legged and four-legged species is special. Case in point: Seventeen-year-old championship rider Paige Johnson fell in love watching "My Little Pony" cartoons. She got her own pony when she was 7; a decade later, she's one of the top young equestrians in the country.

Which is why her mother, Sheila Johnson, hosted a party for 300 at Saturday's Washington International Horse Show at MCI Center. The president of this year's show, Johnson sang an impressive rendition of the national anthem, handed out prizes and charmed guests, including Jacqueline Mars of candy company fame, Wolf Trap's Terre Jones, horsewoman Sydney Ferguson, BET mogul and former husband Bob Johnson, son Brett Johnson and Republican mayoral candidate Carol Schwartz.

Her daughter's passion for horses led to Salamander Farm in Middleburg, 15 horses and a life of training, travel and trophies. "When she was 3 years old, she said she wanted to ride," Johnson said with a laugh. "As a horse show mom, you have to fall in love immediately because it is one of the most grueling, time-consuming sports." (Expensive, too, but with a nice chunk of the BET fortune, she can afford it.)

Paige graduates from high school next spring and then plans to work full time on show jumping. Well, almost full time. Boys do factor in her life. "I'm 17," the Tyra Banks look-alike giggled. "I think you have to have a happy medium."


Getting It Right

Africare -- the largest nonprofit for aid to Africa -- did most things right at Thursday's annual dinner. Right: Raised close to $1 million for the HIV/AIDS effort in Africa. Right: Attracted celebs such as Harry Belafonte (below), U2 singer Bono (right, with Uganda's Ambassador Edith Ssempala) and keynoter Andrew Young. "Pardon my shyness," joked Bono to 2,000 guests at the Hilton Washington. "I'm not used to speaking to less than 20,000." Bono told Belafonte: "You were doing God's work while I was in Ireland learning the Devil's music."

Right: Organizers tried to underplay Belafonte's criticism of Colin Powell (last year's keynote speaker). Earlier this month, Belafonte implied that the secretary of state was a house slave: "When Colin Powell dares to suggest something other than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out to pasture." Africare President Julius Coles tried to shift focus: "The larger picture is helping Africa, and not politics," he said. Right: The scratchy-voiced calypso singer didn't make any excuses for his comment, but did offer an explanation of sorts. "I will try not to embarrass you," Belafonte told the crowd. "But I cannot be still. . . . I say what I have to . . . and I wish nobody harm."

Wrong: The party-o overdid the "Day-O" thing.

Tea and Sorcery

It was kid-spooky (orange pumpkins and black balloons) at yesterday's "Sorcerer's Halloween Tea" at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City. More than 100 children and parents donned Harry Potter garb for a salute to their favorite wizard -- including Paul Mattioti, left, and Sarah Boren, who marked her 11th birthday with 21 Harry-happy friends.

There was plenty to celebrate: The second Potter movie opens Nov. 15, and they got to get into the mood with eyeball Jell-O, candy and hot chocolate, and some magic tricks. Magician Joe Romano delighted the crowd of wizards, witches and princesses with, among other things, a levitating broomstick. A treat almost as good as candy.