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Southern Equine Expo
The Tennessee Miller Coliseum hummed with activity over Valentine’s weekend, February 14-16, 2014, as hundreds of people attended the Southern Equine Expo in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Horse enthusiasts of all ages and types, from die-hard hunt seat fans to reiners and Western devotees, gathered in the Coliseum and its adjacent arenas to view almost one hundred clinics and demonstrations about horses. The event featured such famous clinicians as Chris Cox, three-time-champion of The Road to the Horse; Dick Pieper, internationally-known horseman; esteemed, multi-carded judge Charlene Carter; 92-year-old legendary trainer Jack Brainard, and others.
Presented by Tarter Farm and Ranch Equipment, the expo offered a priceless opportunity for equestrians to learn about multiple different breeds of horses, rub shoulders with more than fourteen well-known clinicians, shop with several vendors, and fellowship with other horse-lovers. Clinic topics ranged from reining, hunter jumper equitation, and cowhorse fundamentals to centered riding, vaulting, and ranch horse competitions. Breed demonstrations included the Pony of the Americas, the Tennessee Walking Horse, the Spotted Saddle Horse, and the Rocky Mountain Horse.
“I’d say the expo has been very educational and beneficial to all persons interested in horses,” said Tim Aston, a spectator and horse enthusiast from Waynesboro, Tennessee. “I’d recommend it to anybody, for the best interests of the horse and the horseman. If you’re into horses and their well-being, the more information you get about them, the better.”
Local horsemen and horsewomen participated in many of the clinics, allowing the clinicians to demonstrate their particular techniques to the crowds on real riders and horses. During Jack Brainard’s Saturday morning clinic, several local horses and riders rode in the Coliseum arena as the legendary clinician educated the crowd on developing the proper rhythm and timing of cues. Although he focused on a basic skill, instructing the riders to indicate with one hand when they felt a particular hoof leave the ground during the walk, Brainard stressed the importance of timing your cues correctly to have the maximum impact on your horse’s movements.
“Knowing when the hoof leaves the ground means you can direct its motion,” Brainard said. “We can’t control it in the air or when it strikes, but when it leaves the ground, then we can direct it.”
A horseman from Tioga, Texas, Brainard has been training and breeding horses for more than 50 years, and his impact on the horse industry is considerable. Brainard’s clinics during the weekend focused on cowboy dressage, flying lead changes, and developing basic and advanced skills.
Other clinics, such as Charlene Carter’s, focused on giving riders advanced tools for the show-ring, such as perfecting their techniques and developing an eye for what judges look for in pattern classes.
“As judges, we have to dissect each separate maneuver,” Carter said. “So you have to practice your precision as a rider. Know your rule books and know your patterns. Don’t beat yourself by getting a pattern wrong. Go out there and get your job done, executing maneuvers with precision and style.”
Carter holds judge’s cards in multiple associations, including AQHA, APHA, PHBA, NRHA, POA, ApHC, and NSBA. Her experiences as a judge and trainer have taken her around the world, and she has seen countless exceptional riders and horses in national and international show pens. She and her husband, fellow judge and trainer Mike Carter, own and operate Carter Show Horses in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. For Charlene Carter, maintaining a balance between judging, teaching, and performing clinics can be tricky, but she viewed the Southern Equine Expo as an excellent opportunity to educate many people at one time.
“Things like this expo are so wonderful for education,” Carter said. “If people take away just one thing from here, I want it to be that thought that if they do want to be good, then they have to put that effort into it. They have to practice and really decide they want to do this, instead of just casually thinking about it one or two days before the show. There’s so much stuff online, and so much stuff available out there to help people, even if they don’t want to go to a trainer. If they want it, they can obtain it.”
Mark and Miranda Lyon, married horse trainers from Whitesboro, Texas, conducted several clinics over the weekend about de-spooking, developing partnerships with horses, low-stress cattle handling and roping, and vaquero horsemanship. In addition to operating their own ranch, the Lyons focus on starting colts and working in ranch horse versatility, as well as teaching.
“We do a lot of clinics, trying to improve people’s horsemanship and educate them on better ways and how to polish their skills,” Mark Lyon said. “We really like doing one-on-one clinics, and we think that’s most efficient. But going to an expo like this and educating 40 to 50 people at a time is a really good way to get the word out there. Of that 40 to 50 people, one or two are going to be interested enough to come to our place or someone else’s place. I don’t care where they go, but I want them to realize that there’s a really good relationship with their horse just waiting out there for them, if they want it.”
The Lyons also enjoy improving and developing the lines of communication between rider and horse.
“It’s not always about getting your way,” Lyon said. “It’s about getting along. We need to understand how the other thinks. The horse doesn’t always understand the way we think. I may have to change the way I ask a horse something, because he doesn’t understand what he thought I meant.”
Regardless of your skill level or area of interest, the 2014 Southern Equine Expo featured something for everyone. “Dedicated to every horseman,” the Expo brimmed with horse-people willing to share the knowledge they possess in almost every discipline, breed, and method of training and riding out there – all you had to do, as a member of the audience, was show up and listen. If you missed this year’s Expo, you have another opportunity to attend next year. For information on next year’s event, check out www.southernequineexpo.com, follow @Southern_Equine on Twitter, or like Southern Equine Expo on Facebook.
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