The unpredictable economy has rocked the horse industry, for sure. Overflowing horse rescue groups, the rising cost of hay, trail closures, boarding fees, shoeing costs. You name it — every aspect of the horse industry has been impacted by the economy.
But the horse industry continues to thrive. So what’s the one thing that keeps horse enthusiasts — well, enthusiastic?
It’s an ingrained passion for horses. These magnificent animals aren’t just a hobby. They’re a lifestyle. We hang out at the feed store, check online for prices of used living quarter trailers (hope, hope, hope), and try out our barn buddies’ saddles. We sign petitions to keep trails open and send checks and volunteer to support equine causes. We watch RFD-TV horse programs every night after the polka hour.
Even though California has more horses than all other states other than Texas, it doesn’t have a horse council. Interesting, especially since horses rank in the top ten of the state’s agricultural industry.
So what unifies the horse people in this state? Two Western States Horse Expos — one in Pomona in Southern California (February 5-7, 2016) and one in Northern California (Sacramento, June 10-12, 2016).
“When I created the first expo in 1998, it was my dream to bring horse people together and provide them with just about everything they wanted,” states Miki Nelsen, owner and founder of Horse Expo Events Western States Horse Expo. “I’ve ridden horses all my life, and I knew about the challenges with owning horses, and certainly all the rewards, too. I’m proud to say that I have a Tevis buckle for riding 100 miles over the Sierra within 24 hours. My horse and I bonded unlike anything else I’ve experienced. And during that time, I learned about the importance of saddle fit, proper shoeing, conditioning, riding in a balanced frame — all those things that everyone experiences with horses, whether you’re riding in the arena or riding 100 miles. It’s our dream, our vision, that keeps us going.
“But I also realized that there wasn’t one equine place to go for education, demonstrations, entertainment, contests, shopping — everything to do with horses,” states Nelsen. “So when I started laying out the plans for the first expo, my vision was to bring it all together — and not just for Californians. People came from all over the world and throughout the U.S. From the very first Expo, I included Olympic gold medalists, competitions, brilliant clinicians, every kind of saddle and bridle imaginable, trailers galore, artwork, trail symposium, Young Rider Park, world renowned veterinarians — you name it. I lassoed everything about horses and brought it all to one place. And by listening to the attendees over the years, I refined the events to where they sparkle with everything horse people want.”
Bringing top clinicians from around the world has proven extremely valuable for attendees. “I would watch clinicians on different television shows and borrow DVDs from my barn friends,” remarks an expo fan from Nevada. “But these famous clinicians all started to sound alike on TV, and I was beginning to think that they edited out all the bad stuff with the horses. So when I realized that I could go to the expo in Sacramento and watch these guys in person, I filled the truck with gas and hightailed it over there. After three days of assessing each one of the clinicians, it became really easy to figure out which program I wanted to follow. It made life with my horse a whole lot easier and I was able to overcome some of his behavior problems. It also made me want to ride more and worry less about getting hurt.”
This year, as in years past, the clinician line-up at both horse expos is highlighted with outstanding professionals. At the Western States Horse Expo Pomona (February 5-7), the line-up includes the following: Clinton Anderson, whose popular method teaches how to become a confident leader your horse respects; and Pat Parelli, whose name has been associated with “natural horsemanship” since its inception, teaches how to work with your horse in a natural way, with the goal of helping raise the level of horsemanship worldwide for the benefit of horses and the people who love them. World Champion in reined cow horse competitions, Richard Winter is also the proud winner of the Road to the Horse Colt Starting Championship. Eitan Beth-Halachmy created the world of competitive Cowboy Dressage and proves that the elegant art of dressage can be accomplished in a Western saddle. Jonathan Field is a brilliant young horseman who developed “Inspired by Horses,” a program that methodically builds the ultimate relationship with a horse. Inductee in the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, Craig Cameron teaches people to educate their horses by first educating themselves. Trainer and clinician Charles Wilhelm will once again present the ever-popular and exciting Ultimate Super Horse Challenge.
Rounding out this exciting line-up of clinicians at Pomona are Brandi Lyons, who focuses on fundamentals and building confidence; Gary Lane, gaited horses; Bonnie Davis, horsecamping and trail riding; Robert Eversole, horse riding and camping areas in the U.S.; Mary Kitzmiller, performance horses; Laura Batts, MS, the ultimate health of the rider and the horse; Nancy Loving, DVM, equine medicine and surgery; Heidi McLaughlin, confidence in the saddle; Chemaine Hurtado, Gold Medal with U.S. Dressage Federation; Teresa Spencer, horse safety; Warwick Schiller, reining; Gabi Gross, PhD., German veterinarian and nutritionist; Renee Tucker, DVM; chiropractic and acupuncture; and Sheryl Lynde, colt starting and working with problem horses.
With the prices of hay creeping up each day, are there options to buying bales of expensive feed? “I listened to a veterinarian from UC Davis speak about feeding grass hay versus alfalfa,” said an expo attendee. “I learned how to reduce my cost by feeding a combination of hays and to feed more often during the day. I just sat there in my seat until the next lecture which was on ulcers in horses. Where else could I get two hours of valuable lectures from world-class veterinarians? And from there I went over to one of the three arenas and watched a fun competition about the Ultimate Super Horse — which made me start thinking about getting my horse to do all those obstacles with smoothness instead of freaking out. That afternoon at the expo was not only fun, it was truly educational.”
Prudent advice is to go on-line and order your tickets (Sacramento Expo has Early Bird specials at www.horsexpo.com). Avoid the lines and get the best deals! For Pomona, visit www.horseexpoevents.com and simply click on “Get Tickets.” Can’t get much easier than that! There are several ticket categories: Three Day Pass, Expo Bucks Discount, General Admission, and Young Riders (five and under are FREE!). The shopping and demonstrations alone will entice you to spend a full three days at the Expo. And don’t forget the exciting Ultimate Super Horse Challenge at Pomona on Saturday night!
And now that the Pomona Expo schedule is already posted on-line, you can create your own “tour” of the Expo ahead of time so you don’t miss anything. There’s no doubt that it will take a full three days to see everything — and everyone — you’ve wanted to see all year. This year’s roster of clinicians shines like never before — and where else can you see them all in one place?
Huge buildings at both expo locations are filled with booths of horse products, educational material, equine non-profit information, breed enthusiasts, artwork — and so much more. “In addition to the greatest marketplace for equine things in the West, I also wanted people to have the opportunity to learn about saving trails, issues about wild horses, equine health concerns, etc.” So in addition to huge expanses of saddles, bridles, supplements, clothing, jewelry — you name it — are booths of groups dedicated to their causes. “We need to have dialogues with each other so we can keep the horse industry healthy and vibrant for generations to come,” smiles Nelsen. “We all want to leave a legacy for our children, and hopefully that includes hoofprints alongside them.”