Phew! Midwest Horse Fair 2014 is over, and I'm pretty damn tired. I was there almost all day on every day of the fair. Even a couple of days later, I ache. Here are my observations, gripes, rants and praises-- oh, and of course LOTS of pictures!
Attendance at the fair was pretty normal-- at least for the humans. The EHV-1 outbreak seems to have scared many owners and trainers, leading them to leave their horses at home. Empty stalls were at least as common as occupied ones
The horses that did attend the fair were often guarded by plastic sheets, cleverly hung shower curtains, plexiglass, bottles of hand sanitizer, and signs. LOTS of signs.
However, all the signs and plastic in the world couldn't prevent a certain amount of contact. (This is probably why the Minnesota Horse Fair has now banned most horses from being there this year.)
The horses themselves wanted to meet each other and the people walking past their stalls.
Despite all the warnings, some people just couldn't resist reaching out to horses.
The "civilian" part of the Fair is always the most amazing part to me. Folks who may never have seen a horse in person can watch them, touch them, and ask questions. It's an excellent way to get more people involved in the horse world. On the other hand, folks who know nothing about horses often do the most ridiculous things. This little girl's mother was encouraging her to crouch under the draft horse's belly and pretend to hold him up for a picture.
Yes, there are some really great shows and exhibits at the horse fair-- but probably the most amazing spectacle is that no one gets hurt. I applaud the owners and trainers who have conditioned their horses to be so calm and tolerant. Personally, I had major trouble staying calm.
The urge to tongue-click loudly at pedestrians standing in the exact middle of the aisles everywhere was nearly overwhelming. I saw way too people texting while riding at the fair. And I very nearly hit people who kept getting up and down during shows.
This picture is all I can show you of the awesome Renegades. Drill teams are always my favorite thing to watch at the fair, and I always try to give you readers a video. Not this time. This time, I had the misfortune to sit behind an entire family of douchecanoes that got up and down, up and down, up and down during the show. People, it's only a ten minute show-- learn to pee together, or wait for the damn break! I guess if you didn't see the team, you'll just have to trust me that their performance this year was spectacular. Or does someone have a video? Post a link in the comments below, pretty please!
Speaking of riding, it's time for the(Like in "Whose Line is it Anyway" the North Horse awards is where the rules are made up and the points don't matter.)
North Horse awards of Midwest Horse Fair 2014!
North Horse awards of Midwest Horse Fair 2014!
BEST RIDER: Eryn Glawe
There are always many spectacular riders at the fair, but this year my award goes to a woman that competed in the TnT obstacle relay challenge. (Video of this awesome event here.) Although her team won the competition, and she and her horse were great at the obstacles, it was Eryn's riding during the warmup before the relay that caught my eye.
All ten horses were on the rail, dodging the work crew that was putting up obstacles for the race. These included live chickens, giant sheets, bridges, etc. In addition, there were some squirrely horses out there. Not surprisingly, Eryn's horse got a little excited. He started throwing his head, and for a second it looked like he might bolt or rear.
Eryn didn't even move the reins. Her whole body moved fluidly into a back-and-down motion, moving her deeper into her seat. It was a move that said "whoah" without making a sound. It wasn't an exaggerated posture, it was elegantly and subtly done, and I'm not even sure she was consciously aware of doing it. But even from hundreds of feet away I could see it. And within three strides, her horse was walking calmly. Only then did Eryn pick up the reins a little. Two more strides, and they had stopped. She spent a little time reassuring him, taking a break, and then they went on.
When we ride with our aids, we always strive to ride seat-and-legs first, hands second. This was a lovely example of that in a very stressful circumstance. And did I mention that Eryn rode her horse in a plain snaffle bit, on a loose rein?
Bravo Eryn Glawe, ten thousand points to you for Best Rider!
Really, all of those who rode in the challenge deserve kudos... except for one, and she was the worst rider I saw at the Fair.
WORST RIDER: Crystal Cooper
You may have noticed that while I scrutinize every aspect of the horse world, I very rarely comment on anyone's riding in this blog. That's because A) I'm no great shakes myself in the saddle and B) riding technique is so rarely a welfare issue. Rolkur sucks, and is awful, damaging riding I will call out immediately. But if you're bouncing around in your seat with your heels in their air? That's not really my concern, unless you're doing it hard enough and for long enough to really hurt your horse.
Crystal Cooper's riding definitely qualified as harmful to her horse during the TnT obstacle relay.
Crystal rode her mare, Tango, with an iron fist on the reins. She was constantly jabbing the horse in the mouth and yanking on the bit into turns and stops. There were no subtle aids here; it was all heel kicks and rein cranks. At one point it got so bad that Crystal forced her increasingly frustrated mare into a corner, where the mare had a bit of a freakout, threatening to buck or rear or both.
|Read Crystal's FB Posts|
Click to enlarge the picture.
Before passing judgement on Crystal's riding, I did look up Tango to learn more about the horse's temperament. I found out that this is a 18-going-on-19 year old, very experienced mare, a veteran of many shows. Crystal had earlier ridden her in an outdoor warmup ring at the fair without a bridle, and Tango did very well, was very calm and obedient. Tango also did very well in the Horse Fair clinic with Dan James, learning the Spanish walk. Was Crystal just super nervous, and taking it out on the horse? Was Tango actually acting up because of the high stress competition?
I dug deeper, and things only got worse. The week before she competed Tango at Midwest Horse Fair, Crystal mentioned on her Facebook page that she would have to put the mare down due to serious seizures. According to an even earlier post by Crystal, these seizures were probably occurring because of a brain tumor that also impaired the mare's vision. After the Fair was over, Crystal again confirmed she would be putting the mare down.
Dear readers, would YOU ride a horse at Midwest Horse Fair that was in bad enough shape that you were going to put her down? Would you really put off euthanasia to wring a few more rides out of an ailing horse? Would you risk putting a mare with seizures in a place where she might harm the many other horses and people around her?
And did I mention Tango is also 9 months pregnant with her 7th baby?
Between the vision problems, seizures, and pregnancy, this is a horse I would have left at home. Even Crystal herself seems to agree with me in this Facebook post dated 4/17/14:
Dear Crystal: You are one awful goddamn bitch. And also, fuck you for breeding your mares to Klassy Celebri Te, an HYPP N/H horse. He won my "Worst Stallion" on Stallion Avenue last year, and I was disgusted to see that over-muscled monstrosity at the fair again this year. Just keep passing on that genetic disease, because heck, why not. It's so fashionable for horses to experience constant muscle tremors, paralysis, soreness and weakness. Makes 'em all muscled up for shows, so it's worth it, right?
Speaking of HYPP, did you know that this exact same disease affects humans as well? This video shows a medical doctor describing his HYPP attack as it happens. To find out more about HYPP in horses, go here.
OK folks, I'm running out of time today. I'll have to do a "Midwest Horse Fair Part II." Before I go though, here are two important things:
1) Check out this ad about a show halter stolen from the 4H tack sale. Find the creep who took it!
2) OMG omg I squeaked like a little girl when I saw the fairies on "unicorns!!" <3 Thankfully, no matter how old and cynical you get, there are times when you just can't help getting wrapped up in the fairytale glamor:
Stay tuned for more Midwest Horse Fair coverage right here at northhorse.org!
Edit: Click here for Part II!