The 21stcelebration of the Western States Horse Expo, May 9-12, was woven with an abundance of new features — new location, innovative competitions, more days, new vendors, different month (May instead of June). The word “exciting” barely covers the reception this event received; exhibitors and attendees alike were over-the-moon happy with all the changes and additions, as well as with the traditional components of 20 years of Horse Expo success.
After being housed for two decades at Cal Expo (California state fairgrounds), the decision was made to host Horse Expo out in the country, nestled among huge ranches with rolling green hills dotted with cattle. Murieta Equestrian Center, now the largest equestrian center in California, was a perfect choice for Horse Expo. Just a few miles from Sacramento, the facility — built exclusively for showing and horse-related events — has five indoor and 12 outdoor arenas, cutting arenas, 900 stalls, and nine expansive spectator seating areas.
New this year, the Equus Masters event was developed by Expo owner Miki Nelsen, Pat Parelli and Chris Cox. The trio felt that it was time to change the approach to taking unstarted horses and using first conventional steps to being saddled — and shift the emphasis to focusing on kindness, patience and softness. Parelli, one of the judges, said of the event, “Equus Masters is about the dignity of the horse, not about the cowboy.” Nelsen agreed, adding that horsepeople wanted something other than competitors “standing in the saddle and twirling a rope on a shut down, exhausted colt.” Judge Eitan Beth-Halachmy (founder of Cowboy Dressage), said that these four Equus Master trainers should accomplish whatever the horse is mentally and physically capable of doing in four days, even if it’s simply getting the horse to lead properly. “You can’t start a horse ‘the old way’ with domination and submission in three or four days,” he said, “without doing damage to the relationship. And that relationship is what we’re judging here.” As master of ceremonies, Cox narrated what the judges were looking at. There were no “first place winners” of this four-day event; rather it was an exhibition of how to build confidence in the horse by being kind, soft and gentle.
Vendors packed the arenas, thankfully in perfect California weather. Attendees flocked the booths of clinician headliners, getting up-close-and-personal with their favorite equestrian “stars” like Julie Goodnight, Pat Parelli, Chris Cox, Sabine Rijssenbeek and Eitan Beth-Halachmy. Shiny trailers lined the pathways between arenas, and started-under-saddle BLM horses were available for adoption on Sunday. There was a display and show of rare and other breeds, and combined driving competitions thrilled viewers. A huge tent on a grassy lawn housed craftsmen teaching the skills of leather braiding, mohair cinch making, and paracord braiding. A covered outdoor eating area was circled by food trucks with various fare, including ethnic food. Cowboy Dressage clinics were conducted all four days in a beautifully groomed arena. And of course, the reined cow horse demonstration was a great draw.
So what’s up for 2020? When the dust settles, no doubt the Horse Expo team will gather around a table, eat a lunch of tacos and guacamole, and start plans for yet another fantastic event. Keep watching www.horsexpo.com for updates or call 530.672.7490 for vendor information.
About Western States Horse Expo:The 2019 location for the Western States Horse Expo moved to Murieta Equestrian Center, and celebrated its 21st anniversary May 9-12, 2019. The Western States Horse Expo Pomona, California will celebrate its eighth year in 2019, and Pomona dates are November 8-10. Founded by horsewoman and entrepreneur Miki Nelsen, the Western States Horse Expos are the largest equine expositions in the United States. www.horsexpo.com and www.horseexpoevents.com