Spring has sprung, with temperatures on the rise and more hours of daylight to spend at the barn. It’s also the perfect time to check your inventory of horse care and show supplies. There’s nothing fun about being at a competition, right in the middle of show season, and discovering there’s just a few more drops of blue shampoo in the bottle and what’s left of the bag of bands for your horse’s mane is scattered at the bottom of your tack trunk!
Once you have a list of supplies you need for the year, it’s time to tackle the tack stores and find the best deals. If only there was a place where you could stock up on horse supplies and catch a couple of clinics or demonstrations all in the same day.
The good news is that such a place does exist! Horse expos offer owners the opportunity to watch (and even participate) in clinics with renowned clinicians, see different breeds of horses, and peruse through trade shows all in one location.
Equine Affaire is a popular horse expo that has been held annually in Columbus, Ohio, since its premiere in 1994. Being that it’s just a few hours away, my mother and I usually make a trip to Equine Affaire part of our spring schedule. This year it took place April 6-9, and we drove up on Thursday (opening day) to avoid heavy crowds.
Expert tip: Attendance is typically lighter on Thursday and Friday, because many people are working. If you like to take your time to peruse through the trade show, these are the best days to attend. Saturday and Sunday are more “survival-of-the-fittest-type-days,” where the crowds double or triple in size, parking can be a nightmare, and you might even find yourself waiting in checkout lines for 30 minutes or more!
Clinics and Educational Opportunities
This year’s four-day event included more than 200 different educational sessions and clinics with presenters such as Guy McLean, Dan James, Brandi Lyons, and Lynn Palm. I sat in on a clinic with James on long-reining. When I first sat down, I wasn’t expecting to learn a lot about long-reining (or ground-driving, as I call it). But as he started demonstrating how to teach horses to collect, perform shoulder-in, and even do lead changes from the ground, I became intrigued. I came home with a few ideas to try with my mare, who’ll probably think I’ve lost my mind.
If you work with a 4-H, FFA, Pony Club, or other youth horse group, the breed pavilion is an important stop. Representatives from dozens of breeds set up booths and have presentations highlighting their breed throughout the event. It’s the perfect opportunity for leaders to take pictures of the horses and pick up handouts for future quiz bowl study sessions.
The Shopping Experience
When your brain needs a break from absorbing all this new and useful information, there are plenty of tack stores and retailers to visit in the trade show. Imagine an area the size of a shopping mall with nothing but equine-related items—it’s pretty much horse owner’s paradise. The trade show has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for new tack, stocking up on supplies, or dreaming about a fancy horse trailer with living quarters. We usually can find good deals on things like dewormer, blankets, and halters each year. The Marketplace at Equine Affaire—a consignment store—is another important place to visit. We scored a gently used winter blanket for only $20!
And that’s just part of the fun! There are many other activities at Equine Affaire that I didn’t experience this trip. Other highlights include the famous “Fantasia” celebration, the versatile horse-and-rider competition, and horse and farm exhibits.
By the time we were finished on Thursday afternoon, we had packed the car’s trunk and back seat full of purchases and my Fitbit showed I had walked more than five miles on the grounds that day—the telltale sign of any good horse expo visit!
If you haven’t attended a horse expo and there’s one in your area, I highly recommend checking it out.
Have you attended Equine Affaire or another horse expo? What is your favorite part about attending these equine events?