Monday, April 22, 2013

Best and Worst at MWHF 2013

Due to a killer migraine yesterday, I wasn't able to attend the last part of the Horse Fair-- and it looks like I missed some of the best stuff! I particularly wanted to see the Chase the Dream Challenge, with rescued horses. If you have pics and results, please let me know!! Ah well, there's still plenty to talk about.

Best Entertainment & Best People

Clearly the equine star of the Fair was Rhia the gorgeous trick horse. Rhia does some really amazing things, including grabbing drinks from a cooler, playing soccer, counting, bowing and... painting. Yes, she creates masterpieces that are at least as good as anything Jackson Polluck made. Rhia is owned and trained by the very talented, kind and knowledgeable Derrick Dupler. Rhia and Derrick deserve a whole post all to themselves, so we'll leave this story for now and talk about some other great people. Mary of Saint Francis Horse Rescue and Retirement was at the fair, along with her daughter and her friend. That's them in the pink next to Rhia! Mary and all the other horse rescue folks at the fair were the true heroes as far as I'm concerned. Despite saving hundreds of horses every year, they don't get paid, and they barely get any recognition in the horse world at large. Every horse breeder that puts more horses on the market should be avid supporters of these folks, who often wind up rescuing the discarded products of those same breeders. In fact, the Horse Council should be donating part of the Fair profits to these rescues! Instead, horse rescues are drastically underfunded. It's a screwed-up world, folks.

Runner-up for best entertainment was the Kettle Moraine Rough Riders Drill Team. Holy crap are they magnificent. Here's a video of their Saturday show.

Best Educational Seminar

At some point during the Fair, even the most hardcore horse fans get cold, exhausted and overstimulated.  The only cure is to sit in the warm, cushy chairs of the Coliseum and eat frybread. (Note: North Horse can always be bribed with frybread, particularly if it has been made by a genuine Indian grandma lady.) I chose to stuff my face and snooze during Dan James's "The Pathway to Liberty: Establishing a Solid Foundation Through Communication." It sounded pleasantly boring. Wrong.

I learned many useful and practical techniques to get a horse to bend and soften. I also learned the start of several at-liberty tricks. Dan James has a great Australian accent, a fantastic attitude and is very funny. He had five students in the arena with him, which was great from a learner's perspective; you got to see them screw up with their horses and solve their problems. I won't go into everything he taught, but if you get a chance to see him do a demo, GO. James ended his seminar with an amazing display of horsemanship and trick riding. Video here.

Runners-up for Best Educational Seminar included, as always, everything by Lodi Vet. The Western Dressage sessions were pretty decent as well. Oh, and I almost forgot!! Richard and Sarah Winters did an excellent program called "What's Wrong with This Picture?" That will be a whole 'nother blog post.

Biggest Rig
 Yes, that's a semi! What do you think, 14 horse stalls + living quarters?

Best Decorations
There were a ton of great decorated stalls and booths this year. I especially liked the ones that honored specific soldiers, which fit in with the "heroes" theme while keeping things personal. There was only one booth that really went all-out though, and it was the only one that honored firemen. I'm talking about the mini firehorse brigade! Adorable. They even put "brick walls" up in the stalls.

Most Colorfully Dressed Fair Attendee

It's interesting to see how the "cowboy" look has evolved. Back in the day, the original cowboys liked lots of color, and accessorized with the brightest bandanas, tassles and shirts they could find. While most of today's horsemen tend to dress in more somber colors, this gentleman has obviously embraced the spirit of the past. So much so that the effect is a little harsh on the eyeballs!

Best Funny Sign

Tackiest Tack

Ugh, I'm pretty sure this leather was literally painted. The edges were blotchy. The mismatched plastic "gems" were just awful, especially in combination with neon green dots.

This is the runner-up for Tackiest Tack. It was at the 4-H tack sale (where everything was rather pricey, I might ad). I'm pretty sure it was just a costume piece though.

Best Rider
Well obviously there are fantastic riders at the Fair, far too many for me to choose one... except I will anyway, because this woman is so cool. Eileen Kirsch is a wildlife biologist who did triathlons until an ankle injury forced her to stop. So she bought an Arabian, Sabin's Scooter, and did major endurance rides instead, racking up thousands of miles in the process. At some point, she had to have hip surgery. Did that stop her? Hell no, she exhibited at MWHF this year and continues to ride. She's currently training a younger horse and hoping maybe to get to the Tevis some day. Did I mention she's in her 60s, and rides everywhere in a bitless halter/bridle? When I asked her what she did to stay in shape, she told me that she swims, and does yoga and pilates and a bunch of other stuff every day. "Don't feel bad though," she says, "I don't have kids." Uh, neither do I, Eileen. You're just super awesome.

Worst Rider (That I saw anyway). She was in the warm-up ring, simultaneously pulling on the reins while asking her horse to go faster, apparently in an effort to force his head down. Her giant spurs were always in her horse's side, and she was constantly yanking on his mouth. Yank, spur, yank, spur, yank, spur, yank... bitch. I'm surprised she only had a snaffle in his mouth... but maybe it was a twisted wire snaffle. Seems like it would fit her style. Chaps, tassles and fancy hats do not a cowgirl make.

Runner-up for Worst Rider was this lady at the Curly Horse demo. She was "posting," repeatedly kicking her mount in the sides as she went up, then slamming her ass down on the saddle. Ugh. I don't normally critique riding unless it's deliberately cruel, because I myself am very far from perfect in the saddle. However, when you're showing off in front of 1,000 people, you should be better. It didn't help that she was a rather big girl on a rather small horse. Ouch. Oh, and the Curly's announcer script used the words "magical" and "mystical" at least once each. *sigh* It's kind of a neat genetic fluke, but seriously? I think I'll curl my hair and then go to one of their club meetings and tell them how rugged, magical, tough, intelligent and wonderful I am because of my hair. /rant

Participation Award

This young lady was clearly scared/embarrassed out of her wits. Yet despite her frozen fearfulness, she was a great sport!

Most Rude

So I was at one of the concessions stands, trying to decide between a wrinkly hotdog or an over-cooked burger. In front of me, a sequin-bedecked troll-faced "woman" (she was so artificially tanned and permed, I'm not sure if she was human) started to yell at the server behind the counter. "Every fucking one of you guys is a rip-off, these prices are fucking ridiculous," etc etc. "Hey," I growled, "it's not his fault, he's just doing his job-- and if you don't like it, maybe you should eat somewhere else." Like the garbage dump, bitch, I silently added. She grumbled about how it was none of my business, but ceased to harass to clerk. I got a wrinkly hotdog (yes, it was $3.50 but what do you expect at a major event?!) and walked away satisfied at the knowledge that I'd called out a bully... however temporary the effect on her might have been.

Most Helpful

Krissy Wejrowski and her adopted horse Haze
Every one of the volunteers at the Fair deserves a round of applause. Although some helpers are paid, a great many are not. They answer questions, distribute programs, organize shows and freeze their asses off making sure people are safe. I'd also like to give super kudos to the Madison Mounted Police, who stroll around on giant black horses, patiently answering the same questions from tourists hour after hour. I talked to several of them, and even got a Bubba the Horse trading card. You can find out more about the cops on horseback here.



  1. The Paint horse you show in the Most Helpful is my gelding, Haze. I adopted him from the Midwest Horse Welfare Foundation in 2010! He did awesome that was his first "show" ever! Thank you for the wonderful picture!

  2. LOL on the "most colorful "cowboy", I saw this person in the expo hall with the kids backpack, but you forgot to picture the wierdest part of his out fit, the white "aladdin" cowboy boots with the longest, curliest toe you have ever seen. My Boyfriend and I still laugh about that to this day