I began doing clinics in the 1970’s to help support my income and to reach more perspective clients. Today it has grown into so much more. When I stated, clinics were group lessons with spectators. Once my career was in full swing and I began accumulating some recognition, groups and associations called me to travel and teach. It was an honor to be asked, and I tried to be mentally prepared as if it were a major competition. Over a period of time I produced videos, started a tack business, and developed a display booth to enhance the clinic experience.
Wolf Kroeber from Germany created an all-horse exposition called the Equitana. AQHA took me to Essen, Germany to represent them and do demonstrations. I was blown away by the crowd of 300,000 plus that packed that event. Several huge buildings displayed every horse and horse product you could ever imagine. I never even had time to experience all there was to see. It seemed that Wolf’s great idea spawned expos throughout the USA. Since then, I have traveled all over our country attending many major expos and horse fairs.
Some of these were the Equitana in Louisville, Kentucky, Equine Affaire in Columbus, Ohio, Kansas Equifest in Wichita, the Mid West Horse Fair in Madison, Wisconsin, Equiss America in Houston, Texas, and the South Dakota Horse Fair in Sioux Falls. After many years of attending these events, which attract a diverse group of horse enthusiasts, it’s clear there are several distinct categories of horse expo attendee. These are three that I see often:
THE STUDENT: Some attendees want to be educated and see several knowledgeable horsemen in one location for a nominal fee. They are exposed to well-known horsemen that they have seen on TV and in magazines. They take notes at the demonstrations; they come to the booth with very specific questions about their training techniques or horse issues. They are there to learn, and take it all in.
THE HORSE LOVER: Although you could argue all attendees have a love for horses, a large group is simply there to celebrate an animal they love. They enjoy the close-up view of the horses they dream about; they like to see the different breed demonstrations and just be a fan of this great animal. Many are not even horse owners, but have carried a love of horses with them since childhood. Horse fairs and expos offer a great opportunity to be up close and personal with the equine lifestyle.
THE SHOPPER: At the large fairs and expos you can find any horse product you would ever need! You can spend hours strolling down the rows and rows of vendors. You can also see new products and outfit yourself as well as your four-legged friend. I have seen many attendees bring wheeled carts to load up with all of their purchases, and some come armed with lists that could rival any Black Friday shopper. I would bet some of these dedicated shoppers don’t even set foot outside of the exhibit hall. They shop till they drop.
Overall, it is hard not to like the entire experience. There is something for everyone! From all of these expos, demos, clinics, and seminars, a new breed of horseman has developed-the clinician. Some have never competed or shown but they have a knack for entertaining and educating the masses. I have worked with several and enjoy them all- Craig Cameron, John and Josh Lyons, Ken McNabb, Pat Parelli, Guy McLean, Aaron Ralston, Monte Roberts, and of course Clinton Anderson. Each of these men bring different techniques and styles to the thousands of different needs in our industry.
My style and teaching method is focused on advancing toward being competitive in the show pen. I grew up training for the purpose of showing, winning, and enjoying the journey. I respected early clinicians such as Ray Hunt and Tom and Bill Dorrance. They paved the way towards the quality shared equine education that we have today. Horse Fairs and Expos are a wonderful way for people to come together to celebrate the horse, and learn and grow.