He’s a tall and gangly youngster, still a bit jittery in the limelight.
But with the proper training, the chestnut foal from Elk Grove who showed off his good manners on Saturday morning during a demonstration at Cal Expo just might grow into the next California Chrome.
“You never know,” said Kalley Krickeberg, who demonstrated techniques for training young horses Saturday at the 2014 Western States Horse Expo. The foal’s mother is Count Me Twice, a thoroughbred mare that has racked up some race winnings and resides at Daehling Ranch in Elk Grove.
“I was so impressed with Chrome’s demeanor,” said Krickeberg, who schooled the Cal Expo audience in simple techniques for reducing stress in foals.
Despite the chaotic environment at the Belmont Stakes, where he was thrust into a worldwide spotlight as he vied for the Triple Crown, “that horse was so composed, so chilled,” Krickeberg said of Chrome. “That’s the result of training from way back when he was a baby.”
Krickeberg, an admitted “Chromie” whose home base is in Florida, was one of dozens of featured speakers and trainers who strutted their stuff Saturday at an event billed as North America’s largest equestrian exposition.
Trainer extraordinaire Bob Avila on Saturday taught a rapt audience how to choose a bit. Others addressed topics from hoof health to saddle fit to cowboy dressage.
The event, which continues through Sunday and is expected to draw 40,000 people, features competitions including the Ultimate Super Horse Challenge, breed demonstrations, an art show, question-and-answer sessions with veterinary medical specialists and, of course, shopping.
Decorative horseshoes. Spur earrings. Jeweled belts with buckles the size of salad plates. Fancy saddles. Vitamins. Even equine insurance. Everything seemed to be going fast inside the exhibition tents on Saturday.
The extra excitement in the air seemed to be attributed, at least in part, to California Chrome’s magical run.
“Every year, the big races bring people into the Western lifestyle,” said Todd Weber, who with his wife, Jill, runs the Shiloh horse rescue ranch in Las Vegas. “But this year, it’s even bigger.”
The Webers were selling trinkets at the expo to raise money to care for the horses they save from slaughter.
“Mainly, we rescue horses,” Todd Weber said. “We do this to pay the bills.”
Outside in his stall, another type of rescue horse was getting ready for the ring.
Lisa Levin got her wild mustang, Nyota, from the federal Bureau of Land Management, which rounds up horses in an effort to manage their population and then offers them for adoption.
“We’re going to show everyone just how wonderful these horses can be,” said Levin, who groomed the horse with the help of her fiancé, Pete Schow.
Schow is not a natural “horse person,” said Levin, of Auburn. But the saga of California Chrome, whose owners live in Yuba City, roped him in, she said.
“It got us really stoked,” she said. “We had a potential Triple Crown winner right in our backyard. We were rooting for him all the way.”
Call The Bee’s Cynthia Hubert, (916) 321-1082. Follow her on Twitter @Cynthia_Hubert.