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The Equine Affaire, if you dare!

Published: 4/23/2008
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By Maddy B. Gray Maddy

Never been to the Equine Affaire?

Let me paint a picture:

- A giant exposition of all things horse

- A four-day calendar chock full of mini-clinics, seminars, and demonstrations run by some of the best horse people in the country.

- A zillion opportunities for you to empty your wallet several times over as you trod the endless aisles of exhibitors selling everything from wormers to warmers, buckets to boots. Heck, you can even buy a $125,000 horse trailer with luxury quarters for you and your horse.

Equine Affaire sets up shop in Springfield, Mass.

HorseThe Equine Affaire sets up shop in Springfield, Mass. in November. It’s also in Pomona, California in February, and in Columbus, Ohio in April. It draws hundreds of thousands of horse enthusiasts for its shows, clinics, breed displays, of course, vendors.

I like the Equine Affaire.

It’s nice to mix with fellow horse fanatics every once in a while. You know how trying it can be to talk horse with non-horse folk? Even the most sympathetic of them will eventually give you one of two reactions: the eyes glaze over in disinterest OR the head turns sideways, like a confused dog. In other words, it’s: “Who cares!” or “Huh?”

They can’t help it. The same thing happens to me when boaters start yapping about mahogany transoms and mooring spots. Huh? Who cares!

But at the Equine Affaire, you’re among friends. Or at least fellow fanatics.

You can get into debates over electric fencing, step-up versus ramp trailers, fine points of grooming, quarterhorse confirmation, water crossing strategies, and the like. You will find people jumping into the dialogue instead of looking for the exit.

This kind of connection can be real welcoming, especially if you’re not coming from a commercial barn and do most of your horse work on your own.

Last year I got into lengthy conversations about trailer-phobic horses, Premarin foals, senior feed, and saddle fitting. With strangers, mind you. And only some of them were trying to sell me something.

I like seeing the huge diversity within the horse community, too. There are the usual Western and English distinctions and the socio-economic ones. Some folks seem to come straight from morning chores. Others clearly have no morning chores. Or evening chores, either.

Some folks still have caked manure on their decade-old lacers. Others have horseshoes embellished on their fancy leather bags, but from the looks of it, that’s as close as they get to any horse’s hoof.

The cars tell a lot, too. There are beat-up pickups with leftover hay in the payload alongside Jaguars with hunt club affiliations on their rear bumpers. Vanity tags express it all: CWBY UP, HORSLVR, NEIGH, WHOA, COWGIRL, HNTJMPER.

There seems to be an equal share of veritable horse folks, veritable posers, and plenty who don’t wear their distinctions on their sleeves. Regardless of where you might fall, there will be plenty to learn, absorb, collect, and appreciate as you peruse the event.

Last year, I chatted with a man who brought his entire class from an alternative public high school. They worked at a farm and learned to ride in exchange for doing barn chores. These were inner-city kids from Springfield. What a great field trip!

Some demonstrators, like Monty Roberts, draw big crowds. Others have scant crowds but many of us will stroll through the venues, catching a few minutes of expertise before moving on.

Most attendees are women but men aren’t just dragged there by wives and daughters. Last year, the World Championship Blacksmithing Competition, held outside under a big, yellow tent drew a huge, manly contingent. During that afternoon, farriers competed to craft shoes from iron rods in just a few minutes.

For the final contest, scores of fans crowded around the two competitors as they worked their magic. Heavy metal music blared. Heat poured out of their forges. Fans and fellow participants counted down the clock and shouted encouragement. It felt like fight night!

Recommendations for the Equine Affair:

So here are my recommendations for a good time at this event:

  • Visit the Equine Affaire website (http://www.equineaffaire.com/) and download the schedule of seminars and clinics. If you plan well, you can get a boatload of know-how for the price of admission.
  • Volunteer (again, check out the website). You will receive free admission after a few mundane hours of handing out programs, strapping on admission wristbands, or stacking chairs. Heck, if you volunteer enough, you can even get a t-shirt.
  • Bring a backpack (some folks even bring rolling grocery carts).
  • Bring your own food and drink (lines are long; food is expensive and not that good.)
  • If there is something specific you’re looking for, do your homework first so that you know exactly what you want and how much it’ll cost elsewhere. (I researched Amish-made barns, found my preferred vendor, and ended up saving $300 by putting a deposit down during the event. And, NO, I didn’t have to take it with me!)
  • Dress in layers (arenas and booths outside are cold but vendor areas are toasty)
  • Buy tickets in advance to see the Pfizer Fantasia (This is an extravaganza with about a dozen different performances from vaulting to reinless riding to comic cowboys. Shows usually sell out well in advance.
  • See the Versatile Horse and Rider competition. Free with your admission. (English and Western riders compete. It’s a great way to see the dynamics of a horse/rider partnership through a challenging obstacle course)
  • Take cell phones or two-way radios if you’re not going solo. It’s easy to lose each other.

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10/17/2011 cynthia riegle
true enough it is like the horse meca of the year and we look forward it as much as christmas. this year after years of product development, I will be there as a vendor and am so happy to be in the s. mallory barn where the clinic are...yeh! the northeast may have a greater socioeconomic diversity, but after attending the ohio equine affaire with mr. Lyons, there are many more with dirty boots on, and hair under a well worn hat out that way...enjoy the diversity we have up here.we've earned it!And it keeps the pay roll moving! can't wait for Nov. 10th

   
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