Patrons of Old West culture, fans of Western riding and horse trainers got their fill of riding and reining at one of the nation’s largest equine commerce and education events Saturday at the Western States Horse Expo.
Thousands visited horse clinics, horse trainers, vendors and exhibits of Western riding culture in the second day of the 18th annual event that concludes Sunday at 5 p.m. at Cal Expo.
“Not only are horses just amazing to watch, these expos give you an opportunity to see all different disciplines and all different breeds,” said Brandi Lyons, one of the expo’s clinicians. “I feel like the horse can connect to a person whether they are a horse person or not.”
Lyons conducted a clinic in overcoming typical fears of riding horses. One tip: Learn how to be in charge.
No matter how old riders are or how long they have been riding, the fear a rider has while on a horse is the natural reaction to not having control, Lyons said as a 12-year-old girl and 72-year-old woman rode their horses in the arena.
Lyons said she feels a connection to riders who are fearful. “I was afraid at one point,” she said. “While you get control of your horse, teaching them what you mean … your fear starts to go away.”
Horse trainer and entrepreneur Pat Parelli led clinics and told visitors to the arena that it’s possible for a rider who remains in control to ride without a bridle. The title of that lesson was, “Look Ma … No Hands!”
Parelli talked horse-shop to the visitors at his booth inside the Horse Expo University building, where many of the 325 vendors offered horse training supplies and Western-style wares. Other vendors sold jewelry, clothing and horse-riding apparel. There were saddles, bridles, pads, health treatments and art. Outside, vendors offered to sell merchandise worth thousands of dollars, including trailers, tractors and horses.
Not all vendors were sellers. Palomino Armstrong said she rescues orphaned or at-risk foals and then places them with experienced horse-raising families.
She brought a foal and miniature horse named DaBubbles, who had been attacked by a mountain lion, so people could see their rehabilitation. She has rescued foals in Nevada, Washington and Oregon that otherwise would have died after their mothers were taken to slaughter for foreign sale, she said.
Rescued animals “need to be with somebody with experience” to ensure proper socialization, Armstrong said. “People think it’s cute when they pretend to bite you or do a little kick.” But that behavior needs correcting. Normally, their own mothers would bite to bring them into line, she said. Absent that, Armstrong steps up. “I’ll bite my babies (foals), I’ll bite them right in the mouth if they bite me, and they don’t bite again.”
Armstrong said she and her husband spend on average about $200 a foal. That doesn’t include the cost of care when the animals are taken to the couple’s farm in Shingletown.
The two sacrificed their honeymoon to stay with one foal, later dubbed Honey Bandit, so that every few hours they could feed it and monitor its IV. It survived, she said, and parades around their farm full of spunk.
Adoptive families “don’t have to be rich or have a million acres,” Armstrong said. But they need to provide shelter and room for the animals to run. Families also need experience with horses, because the wild, rescued animals can learn to be gentle and soft. “We don’t want anyone breaking them.”