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Fresh Look at the Equine Affaire

Published: 11/18/2013
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Editor's Note:
NickerNews guest columnist Robin Pepin graciously submitted her reflections on this year's rendition of the Equine Affaire, in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
Not surprisingly, Pepin was a tad overwhelmed by all it had to offer. Same here, Robin.

Read on for her funny, insightful reflections.
Read more takes on the event here.


By Robin Pepin

This year, I finally made it to the Equine Affaire. I wasn’t planning to go. But my friend, Lisa, invited me because her husband was unable to go with her. 
I think it took less than a nanosecond to accept her invitation and agree to be her roomie.

Secretly, she was pleased because her hubby (like mine) is not a horse person and would have found the whole weekend extremely tedious.

Simply put, this event is horse lover nirvana. It’s the world’s biggest tack shop; famous clinicians every hour on the hour; horses that just take your breath away all rolled up into one heck of a weekend.

To be honest, it was a bit overwhelming! 

We arrived Friday afternoon and got seriously sidelined with Shop-til-You-Drop Fever.  My head was spinning with all the different horse products. 

Here are just a few of the things I really wanted to purchase (but didn’t):

  •   A new barn that’s nicer than my house (several models were set up on-site).
  • A new horse trailer with living quarters (also better furnished & nicer than my house).
  • An extremely high quality trail saddle which would require taking out a home                 equity loan to purchase.
  • A furnace that burned horse manure. I was seriously tempted to get the home     equity loan and go for it on this one.

In the end, my purchases were rather boring: some new brushes and slow feed hay nets for my two pudgy ponies. They weren’t impressed with the hay nets and wished I had sprung for the shiny new barn instead.

Friday night we went to the Fantasia show. First, what I liked the best:

Guy McLean stole the show as far as I’m concerned. He rode out on his liver chestnut, Australian Stock Horse, Spinabbey, accompanied by three other horses at liberty (no tack of any kind on them). Spinabbey was unbelievable.  He can do a canter departure from a standstill. BACKWARDS!

Yes, folks you heard that right; backwards.

He cantered in place, sideways, forward, backwards. He jumped up in the air, in place, with no forward movement (move over Royal Lipazzanner stallions). The “at liberty” horses were remarkable as well.
His youngest horse, “Mate,” laid down on command and let the rest of the horses sidepass over him.

Truly an amazing performance.

What I liked the least:

Tommy Turvey, Equine Extremist.  While I can appreciate what goes into trick training a horse, this just didn’t hit the mark for me.  Poker Joe is an amazing horse, but I found this act somewhat degrading. The worse “trick” was when Tommy rolled Poker Joe onto his back, sat on his belly; grabbed his front legs and pumped them like he was on an elliptical machine.

The crowd loved it. I didn’t.

Saturday, we found the most amazing clinician. Mark Bolender from Silver Creek, Washington.
He is the country’s leading expert in Mountain Trail, Extreme Trail, and Competitive Trail, and a three-time National Grand Champion (2008, 2009, 2010).

Mark’s training method is:
“Good horsemanship is not about domination but leadership, and having the horse volunteer for a partnership with the handler.”

He’s an engaging presenter and quite comical which made watching the clinic fun. Since Lisa and I are trail riders, we found this clinic the most interesting and went to all of his presentations.

We appreciated the fact that he didn’t bring a “model” perfectly trained horse to show off. Instead, he had volunteers participate with their own horses.  Mark was able to teach the riders how to gain their horses respect, trust and cooperation. Each rider and horse pair received individual attention depending on what they were struggling with.

It was amazing to see a horse go from a complete melt down & refusal to step up on a 15-inch wide, 25-foot long bridge with all four feet, to being ridden across the entire bridge with complete confidence.

We spoke to Mark and seven barns on the East Coast have invited him to come back to for clinics. By Sunday morning, his booth had completely sold out of his books.  I think it’s safe to say, he was a hit!

I hope to attend next year. Maybe I should apply for that home equity loan in case the horse manure furnace makes a return appearance!

Thanks, Robin!


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11/18/2013 Andrea Barstow
Thanks for the entertaining read, Robin. I didn't get to go this year, but saw both Guy and Tommy last year. Guy and his horses are amazing. Tommy is just silly, but I wouldn't complain if I could get my horse to do some of those stunts. Anyway, thank you for taking me for a stroll at the EA. Hope to get back there next year!
11/18/2013 Andrea
oh, and I saw that furnace last year. I think it's great and my husband was interested too. He's getting a bit tired of hauling firewood out of our woods every year. A no-brainer as far as I am concerned! ;)

   
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