Equine Affaire 2008: So much to see, so little time

Anyone with the slightest interest in horses would have enjoyed the four-day equestrian banquet at last weekend’s Equine Affaire in Columbus (April 10-14).

It would be hard to imagine a more diverse collection of experts and professionals than those who filled the schedule any given day.

Cool, sometimes damp, weather did not deter the crowds at the annual event, said Janice Abate, Equine Affaire marketing manager.

“We had a lot of dedicated people here all weekend,” she said after the event closed.

Friday and Saturday attendees dodged showers and thunderstorms, dashing from one venue to another. But the events at the open pavilions were well-viewed, she said, with bundled-up horse lovers ignoring cold temperatures.

Plenty to see

Thursday offered numerous treats for an inexpensive ticket ($13 general admission) starting at 9:30 a.m. with Clint Anderson offering a step-by-step program for teaching a horse to load into a trailer.

The most beautiful and talented horse in the world is not of much use if it can’t change venues now and then. Anderson addressed issues many horses have with entering a dark, unsteady, small space.

Activity continued apace at eight different locations on the state fairgrounds until the Pfizer Fantasia performance at 7 p.m.

Popular topics

So many facets of horsemanship were addressed that choosing which to attend was challenging.

Problems with training was a popular theme with myriad trainers explaining how to teach a horse to drive, to not be spooked by scary things, to do tricks, and to not run away.

Others concentrated on educating the audience on how to retrain a thoroughbred off the track, prepare a horse for show, begin training a young horse, become more fit and understand how horses communicate with each other.

Lendon Gray, speaking on making a decision whether or not a horse is ready for more advanced dressage, taught a clinic with four volunteers on their horses. With a knack for putting esoteric dressage terms into everyday language, she helped the riders tune up the gaits of all their mounts.

“We’re looking for power and energy. Your horse needs to be pushing from the hind end,” she urged.

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Crown Jewel

Getting the right response to the right aids is vital to a rider who wants her horse to move up in dressage, she said, and told the story of one of her early horses.

“Crown Jewel was a fabulous thoroughbred, winning like mad at second and third level,” Gray said.

“I could make that horse look right, but we didn’t honestly have the basics.”

When she tried to move Crown Jewel up another level, she failed and the horse never achieved its full potential because the foundation had holes in it, she said.

Other experts

Gray was only one example of dedicated professionals who spoke for more than an hour each.

Veterinarians and doctors spoke on nutrition, lameness, equine chiropractic, conditioning for riders and horses, massage therapy, and how to collect, analyze and transport equine semen.

Another facet of the equine industry was the industry itself and how to succeed in a highly competitive culture. Just as fascinating were the 15-minute demonstrations fit in between the clinics and seminars.

Shows and contests

From gaited horses to burros, the Coliseum and the Voinovich Center provided accommodating arenas for numerous equine varieties.

Thursday morning the Golden Haflinger Celebration streamed through the oversized back door to Voinovich Center. Teams of the well-muscled, pony-height palomino-colored draft horses, their golden coats still thick from the winter, pulled wagons, farm equipment and surreys. Others carried riders of various persuasions, from dressage to jumper to cutting horse.

To the unfamiliar eye, most of the sturdy horses looked enough alike to be interchangeable, but their talents were clearly as broad as their backs.

Many, if not all, of the horses in the demonstration were from Der Haflingerhof owned by the Robert Eicher family in Loudonville east of Columbus.

The Amish family breeds a herd of “silver” Haflinger mares that are rated by the American Haflinger Registry as being in the top 10 percent of Haflingers in the world, according to the farm’s flier.

Susan Van Horn, farm manager, said the Eichers continue to import Haflingers from their native Austria.

Haflingers first came to the U.S. in 1958 and have become increasingly popular in the Amish community, she said. As their qualities become better known, they are in demand for other segments of the horse industry, as well.

Plan ahead

Backstage at the Voinovich Center dozens of breeds were stabled for the weekend. They included the well-known Connemara ponies and some less-familiar breeds such as the Gypsy Vanners, a black and white breed used for centuries in England and Ireland by the Gypsies to pull their wagons and living quarters.

Plenty of commercial vendors satisfied the shopping urge at the Celeste Center supplying books, barn equipment, mountains of tack and clothing — even a hot walker was in evidence.

One day was not enough time to hit even the high points of this year’s Equine Affaire. Anyone attending next year should plan ahead for maximum benefit.


Primary question: Are horse and rider a good fit?

By Ann Wishart

Buying a horse is usually a crap shoot.

An amateur can read the pedigree, consult with friends and relatives and pay the vet for X-rays, tests and exams.

We worry about conformation. Does the shoulder have a good slope? Is she cow-hocked? Lop-earred? Is the neck set on right? How are his gaits? Too old? Too young?

While these may be important concerns, the primary question — the one that will often take months or even years to answer — is: Are the horse and rider a good fit?

The key

Personality is the key to the eternal conundrum, according to Yvonne Barteau who spoke April 10 at the Equine Affaire in Columbus.

“Who is this horse? Who is this rider?”

Those are the questions that need to be answered before a partnership between the two can be successful, Barteau said.

Fascinated by horses since childhood, she began training them as a young woman and, over the decades, has turned the match-making process into as much a science as an art.

Her system

During the demonstration at Cooper Arena, Barteau used as examples her daughter, Kassie, and her student, Endel Ots, to explain her system for combining horses and people into winning teams.

Kassie dislikes conflict, so it is better she not buy a horse with a challenging personality, Barteau said.

“She needs to find a happy place,” the trainer said of her daughter. “She won’t get in a deep, dark, bad place with a horse.”

Ots, on the other hand, tries too hard to make things work.

“He thinks he should have to put a lot of effort into everything he does,” Barteau said. “He’s doggedly stubborn, won’t give up. And he’s OK with conflict.”

These sound like simple observations of people she knows well, but there is more to the system.

Background

Barteau and her husband, Kim, train dozens of horses, many of them stallions, at Indian Hills Farm in Illinois.

Before going to work for Bob Ourey, they trained acts at The Arabian Nights Dinner Theater in Orlando, Fla. She is a dressage rider and instructor of international renown and has worked with horses and riders in nearly all equestrian fields.

Analysis

The Barteaus have developed a multi-layered method to analyze each horse as it comes into their program. Horses have characters that fit, to some degree, into the four major categories: social, fearful, aloof and challenging.

The Barteaus categorize the horses who they train by watching and interacting with them, she said.

Students and riders at the farm are encouraged to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test that helps determine a person’s personality. The results of that test plus an analysis of the rider’s strengths, weaknesses, comfort zone and skill level help determine what kinds of horses he or she would be successful with, Barteau said.

She recommended riders ask themselves if they are comfortable with the horses they partner with and decide what kind of horse they would rather be around. The answers could be enlightening.

“It’s amazing how long we will put with a trouble horse,” she said.

For instance, horses that are aggressively fearful or challenging can be dangerous.

“He needs to get training or you need to get help,” Barteau said. “If you can’t control his behavior, get out of it.”

Training will change a horse’s behavior but the rider has to subscribe to the methods that work. As the rider learns, he or she also changes.

“The right horse for you now may not be the right horse for you five years from now,” she said.

About the Author

Farm and Dairy contributing writer Ann Wishart lives in Newbury, Ohio. A graduate of Youngstown State University with a long career in the newspaper industry, she is also an accomplished equestrienne. More Stories by Ann Wishart

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