Saturday, February 23, 2013

Inspiration from the Expo

We're just arriving home from the Pennsylvaina Horse World Expo and I'm thinking about our best take-aways.  

Clay Maier shows his skill with Friesian training.
For those who don't know (or follow the links on the BIG calendar, which you all should do), the Horse World Expo is a huge symposium of horse training experts, vendors and horse enthusiasts, occurring annually in Harrisburg.  

It includes training and information sessions in five locations: two lecture halls, a round pen, a larger arena and the well-known Harrisburg main arena, which is 240 by 120 feet and surrounded by seats.  The Harrisburg Farm Show Complex hosts more than 200 events a year, including the PA national Horse Show, rodeos, garden shows, sporting shows, and, of course, the PA Farm Show.   In addition to the lectures and riding programs, the expo holds 500 vendors.

The Expo Facility
Since my birthday falls near the Expo, going to it with my husband has become an annual birthday outing for me.  We stay in Harrisburg a couple nights, go to the expo, hit some restaurants and usually, I come home with a desirable horse goody (and this year was no exception).

We have it down to an art.  I go to the riding programs that interest me, usually a diverse assortment, and my husband strolls through the vendors and attends lectures.  This year he focused on field management and equine emergencies, and I focused on long-lining and young horse starting.

The young-horse starting was a refresher for me, necessary because we're bringing Stormkite home tomorrow.  Although he as been working under saddle for a couple months, there are some major holes in his ground training.  I remember what good success I had with Hudson, after learning some horse-starting techniques watching Chris Cox at the Expo, and she remains, to this day, the most mannerly horse in my barn.  Watching Aussie Guy McLean start a beautiful little appendix mare this year reminded me of the methods that saved my relationship with baby Hudson nearly 10 years ago. 

Guy McLean, being cool the way Aussies are.
The other biggie for me was watching a long-line and driving expert named Clay Maier demonstrate how to start a horse in driving, as well as an introduction to long-line training.  He used a beautiful Friesian to demonstrate his skills with long-lining, which included the horse half-passing around him in a circle, as he stayed in the middle, like the hub of a wheel.  Really lovely work.  

His basic training on teaching a horse to start pulling was solid and sensible, with a heavy focus on safety for horse and handler.  I'm interested not only in long-lining all my horses, but in getting Hudson pulling, logs to start, and eventually, maybe, a cart.  Since she is a strong half-draft who has an obvious sense of accomplishment, I have a feeling Hudson would excel at the higher level long line techniques and she would get a kick out of showing-off her strength in pulling heavy things. 

Not to mention that she will enjoy being the focus of my attention.  As I have relied more on my fun riding pony, Starlight, I have sensed a bit of hurt coming from my number one mare, Hudson. 

Starlight is not being ignored, though.  I had a lengthy conversation with Paulita, the Freeform saddle vendor, about this treeless saddle, and also sat in it. Although I have some concern about pressure on the back from treeless vs. treed saddles, the Freeform saddle seems to distribute weight evenly, with a semi-paneled system that intrigues me.  Their pressure tests have shown good weight distribution.

In addition, I had a chat with the makers of Wyoming saddles, who custom make Western saddles for drafts, mules, gaited horses and any riding horse, actually.  They told me they could make a short, flared and hoop-treed western saddle for my little Starlight that would fit the horse for an amazingly reasonable price, and get us ready for some cow events this year.

"I shall put my queenly massiveness to work."
Oh, and the desirable horse goody I mentioned?  It is a long-lining package from Clay Maier: a gorgeous leather surcingle, long reins, a training DVD, and a driving whip made of graphite that is so light you barely feel it in your hand.  It sounds funny, but when you're handling long lines and a whip, the typical plastic whip starts to feel awfully darn heavy, especially if your hands and wrists are at all compromised. This whip is as light as whip cream.

I'll keep you up on our progress as we start back in the training arena with a renewed excitement.  And that feeling is really what I always bring home from the Expo: a great enthusiasm for working with horses.  

And this time of year, with winter soon to become a chilly memory, and considering my newly-attached ACL, isn't this just a great time for it?


  1. Cool idea with Hudson. She is so cute with that big build. We uses the tractor for dragging logs but I like the horse idea better. :-)

    I need something to jump start my enthusiasm.

  2. She is a cute chunk, but a fair amount of that physique is not muscle, I'm afraid. She'll just start with a tire before we advance to logs.

    I'm sure you'll start feeling enthusiastic when you're healed!