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Equine Affaire Review

Published: 11/17/2010
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By Maddy B. Gray

Along with ten of thousands of New England horse people, I made the annual pilgrimage to the Equine Affaire at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
The billboards at Gate 9 might as well have read:

Open your Wallet.
Open your Mind.
Be Overwhelmed by All Things Horse.

Take a walk with me among the hundreds of vendors and send your feedback to be entered to win a free tote!
Read about past visits.
Read about the Versatile Horse & Rider experience.

I started in the Breed Pavilion and bumped into NickerNews friends Greg Salvatore and Phil Silva. Greg owns SmartCarts and was showing off his colorful and sturdy models. (The double muck bucket cart is new and nifty.)
Phil was touting the development of a youth breeding program at Ten Broeck Farm in Pepperell, MA.

The folks at Lucky Horse Rescue had one of the cutest displays – three babies (two colts and a filly), less than a year old. They were near my friends at Save Your Ass Rescue. President Ann Firestone was bracing for the onslaught of enthusiasts. “This is our biggest show by far,” she said.

I talked with representatives of the Myhre Equine Clinic. They had parts of cadavers available to illustrate laminitis, navicular disease, and founder.
It makes much more sense when you can see a cross section of the hoof. Amazing!
They also had bladder stones bigger than golf balls. Ouch!

I moved onto the Better Living Center, the heart of the action for retail vendors. I chatted with the ladies at Saratoga Saddlery. They sell high-end boots and clothes. Christmas Wish List stuff. Many of the sales reps are from Australia and they recently worked the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.

I chatted with John in the Horseware section of Bit of Britian. More wishlist stuff. I love Horsewares clothing – it’s like LL Bean but with flare and a sense of fun.

As I moved from building to building, I tried to take an inventory of people, outfits, and protocol.
Nearly all wore jeans.
Equal ratio of cowboy hats to ball caps to no hats at all.
Most carried the free blue plastic bags to put all your brochures, business cards, and sundry freebies. It’s the Equine Affaire’s version of trick-or-treating.

By far the best freebie was a two-pound chunk of salt from Rusty Bastian of Redmond Rock natural equine minerals. (My girls love it, Rusty!) He also handed out shakers of table salt. Cool! I’m going to buy some. It comes from Utah which makes it a bit more local than the Himalayan salt everyone’s so keen on lately.

Tessa and Michelle touted the new Organic Selenium at their Triple Crown booth. It’s absorbed better than other formulas, they told me.

It’s noon.
I walked near the parking lot. It was full.

Already folks were starting to need a break. A few were sitting on benches outside the Mallory building, drinking beer and smoking. Others walked aimlessly along the cement paths, cell phones at their ears, doubtless trying to reach other members of their herd.

I had a fantastic chat with Steve Edwards. He is a mule specialist from Arizona. I walked with him to Barn C where he met with the Nicholsons and talked with them about correct rope haltering. They had two handsome mules from their Nicholson Family Farm.
Steve practices natural horsemanship, teaches clinics all around the country, and worked with the late Ray Hunt.

Richard Fox (photo at right)  talked with me about Equitours. Talk about extraordinary trail rides! They offer tours by horseback in Turkey, Mongolia, France, Kenya, also cattle drives in Wyoming. That's really just the tip of the iceberg as far as their offerings go.
Fox graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, my hometown.

The prize for the funnest display was at Mountain Feather Originals. Who wouldn’t want a nativity scene with all horses? They are all hand-sculpted and painted clay horses. Very cute.

They weren't far from the Dubarry of Ireland boots display. Having lived in Ireland for the better part of a year, I know why one of their big selling points is dryness. The pitch works for us Mainers, too. Do they come insulated? (see photo)

I swung by the booths for Monty Roberts and Chris Cox. They were both there in person. It was only Thursday and they looked pale and tired. Not a good sign! It’s amazing how much the marketing of an individual can take over the man…there were Chris Cox spurs, Chris Cox headstalls, Chris Cox fleece tops. Ditto more or less for Roberts.
I kinda felt bad for them. But then I snapped out of it. After all, no one forced them to hit the big time, right?

Caroline Rider worked for hours demonstrating her “Tao of Horsemanship.” Interesting stuff.
But when I thought about it, it didn’t differ too much from muleman Steve Edwards and his “Ask. Tell. Demand” brand of natural horsemanship.

So much of that stuff is similar, just different packaging. And different spins.
Most of the vendors and participants and trainers have the horse's best interest in mind. Or at least they did at some point until it became more important to stand out and sell...

That's fanaticism for ya.

My mom's a dog person and when I exclaimed my astonishment at the more far-reaching displays and presentations, she simply said.
"They're no worse than Dog People!"

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11/17/2010 Kim
I haven't visited the EA the last several years; this year I decided to go...mostly due to the fact that I had been accepted to ride in the Versatile Horse Competition. After taking care of my horse, I began the "walking about". Overwhelming, lots to look at ~ vendors everywhere! I had little time to soak up all that was to offer in merchandise and clinics, so I chose well. I made some new friends, attended a couple of great clinics, and networked with a host of people from all over the country! I was thrilled with the contacts that I made and look forward to working with these folks ~ so, with all that said. I had a good experience and look forward to being able to "do it again next year"!
It was a great time.. best part was Cris Cox I also enjoyed the jumping class with Denny Emerson, Aaron Ralston was a great rider and teacher.and of course Fantasia, missed at lot of booths.but had the best time ever.
11/18/2010 Julie
As usual, I had a wonderful time at the EA, due in large part that I get a break from the daily grind at the barn and I had my husband all to kids. I found that there were more different vendors this year than I remember in years past, but a large part of the "regulars" were still to be found, although some were in different locations. I watched a couple of clinics, browsed for trinkets for the girls caring for my horses back home, entered drawings (which I never, ever win), shopped for necessities for the horses/barn/myself .... whatever happened to be on my mental list this year, and cheered on the participants in the Versatility Challenge. It was sometimes boring (like waiting in a long checkout line), sometimes tiring (my back or my feet depending on what I'd been doing a lot of), sometimes frustrating (like trying to find a women's restroom that didn't have a 45-minute wait), but in the end I wouldn't miss it for anything!
11/20/2010 Vicki
this is the 5th year in a row that I gone.... I got to watch Chris Cox and also Julie Goodnight... they both were excellent... was able to talk to some friends I use to show with many years ago (at the all arab shows) which was great... went and did the shopping thing and found a couple of really really great deals (like a nice winter blanket for $43)... watch the challenge as well....and as always left there with a sore throat.... all in all i had a great time and plan on attending next year.... hotel reserved already.....
11/21/2010 sonia
CONGRATULATIONS to Kim and Sherrye, what a fabulous duo to represent Maine horsewomen! You GO girls! My daughter Emma and I went for a brief trip to EA, it was great, Chris Cox was amazing, the booths were great, we did some power-shopping, you really covered it well, Maddy, thank you!

"Here lies the body of my good horse, The General. For years he bore me around the circuit of my practice and all that time he never made a blunder. Would that his master could say the same." - President John Tyler's epitaph for his horse