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Horse Expo’s Tenth “Diamond” Anniversary Sparkled

A diamond is the gift typically given on a tenth anniversary, and that’s exactly what expo attendees received in June at the 10th annual Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento, California — a sparkling, diamond-studded event. This expo definitely shined, giving expo-goers an incredible diversity of “everything equine.”

The list of clinicians was once again a star cast, with Chris Cox, Jane Savoie, Jonathan Field (a rising celebrity from Canada), John Lyons, Bob Avila, Al Dunning, Richard Shrake, Muffy Seaton and Sandy Collier leading a long list of experts. Crowds enthusiastically sat in the stands as these pros shared their wealth of information and experience.

Bob Avila contributed another “first” to the prestigious Magnificent Seven, a stock horse competition that has highlighted the Expo since 2002. Avila swept first place for the third year in a row, this time aboard Chics Magic Potion owned by Ken Banks. Russel Dilday, on Topsail Rein Maker owned by Kevin Cantrelles, was reserve champion, with only one point separating him from Avila.

The Mustang Challenge literally rocked the crowd. After exciting go-rounds during Friday and Saturday, the ten finalists from a field of 29 roared into the spotlight on Saturday night. The sell-out crowd was treated to a gala of superb horsemanship — and all these young mustangs had only 90 days of training! One finalist sported a “recycling” theme, with her horse draped with a woven blanket of aluminum cans over the hindquarters and a “matching” breast collar. A rendition of The Man from Snowy River from another contestant thrilled the crowd, with stock whips cracking around the arena. Another finalist, a breast cancer survivor, gave her magnificent freestyle presentation bridleless and bareback. These horses definitely went from wild to mild in those short three months as they performed in-hand and under saddle, complete with stops, spins, circles and maneuvering of obstacles found in trail situations. The Mustang Heritage Foundation, in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management, created the Challenge to highlight the value of American Mustangs through a national competition, giving people an opportunity to see how these wild horses can become trained mounts.

The winner of the Mustang Challenge, 22-year-old Corinne Elser of Burns, Oregon on a three-year-old bay mare named “Dolly” really wow’ed the crowd. After successful completion of the obstacles and patterns, she went for the bonus category — she nodded for a cow, taking the cow up the fence and across the back of the arena, skillfully turning the cow. Noted horseman and headliner Al Dunning commented, “Man, you barely see horses with a year or two of training do something like that, let alone 90 days!”

Many of the mustangs were sold in an auction following the finals. These exceptionally well-trained horses went for good dollar amounts, with Elser taking home Dolly for $5,500 and “Handy Hank” going home with his trainer Madelyn Wagner for a bid of $10,000.

The mustangs weren’t the only horses who found new homes that weekend. Dave Hammond Auctions rapped the gavel on sales of stunning Quarter Horses, Paints, and — yes — Percherons! These gentle giants were seen during the three days being led through the crowds, their rumbling clip-clops heard from several buildings away. Successful bidders took home performance, trail, rope, ranch, cow, and pleasure horses. Every horse was demonstrated being bridled, loaded and unloaded into a trailer, tacked up, and ridden. Bidders certainly knew what they were buying!

There were lots of Kleenex passed around Friday night when a very surprised Richard Shrake was inducted into the Western States Hall of Fame. Shrake, whose contributions to the horse industry span over 40 years, has been a successful competitor, trainer, clinician, and all-around horseman. His “Resistance-Free” method of training has influenced horses and horsepeople around the world. “This award is one of the greatest honors I’ve ever received,” says Shrake. “I was humbled down to my toes. I had no idea that was going to happen when Al Dunning, Bob Avila and Nancy Easton sort of hustled me to the arena. I was totally speechless! It is certainly an honor to be among the other recipients of this award; I have great admiration for each one of them. I’m grateful to the Expo not only for this Hall of Fame award, but also for bringing such an incredible event to the horse world. People have so much more knowledge today because of the education the Horse Expo brings to them.”

The Darby, a fast and furious event featuring single pony carts to four-in-hand carriages, entertained the crowd as they flew through obstacles and hazards, kicking up dust and applause. Leslie Berndl took first in singles, and Diana Kastama captured first in pairs.

Cameras were clicking away as proud parents watched their children cavort in the Young Riders Park. Pony Club and 4-H had booths there, and the ever-popular grey Arabian horses (as patient as can be!) were again festooned with fingerpaint applied by young buckaroos. This year the pony rides were especially fun — the ponies with their passengers aboard were led through a miniature obstacle course over bridges, through cones and around trees. There was even a petting zoo at the Park, with pigs, rabbits and goats gleaning attention from young admirers.

The downturn in the economy certainly didn’t daunt Expo shoppers, as they cruised through aisle after aisle of everything imaginable for horses and horsepeople. Spilling out from the buildings were people anxious to examine and compare trailers, farm and ranch equipment, trucks, tractors, barns, fencing, stalls — you name it, it was there.

The Western States Horse Expo just keeps getting better and better. Who knows what the second decade of “Expo-ing” will bring! Be sure to put next year’s 11th Annual Western States Horse Expo, June 12-14, 2009, on your calendar.

For more information, call 800.352.2411 or visit http://www.horsexpo.com


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