Last weekend my extremely diverse friend group packed up a few cars and headed up to Columbus, OH for Equine Affaire. We rented a super little house on AirBnB that comfortably slept all seven of us and worked out great for making breakfasts and staying up late around the kitchen table chatting and drinking wine.
This was the first real trip we’ve taken as a group and it was a total success! We all acknowledge that we are… a lot… especially together, and I think that helps all of us cope individually when there are disagreements. In a group this diverse, there are bound to be disagreements: our ages range from 29 to 69; mothers, divorcees, happily married, singles; apartment dwellers to farm owners; control freaks and Type Bs; driven, competitive riders to non-riders; and multiple-horse owners to horse appreciators. It is a magical thing and a privilege to co-exist in the midst of these wonderful women and I am proud of us for all working hard to make sure everyone had a good weekend as we shared our greatest mutual passion- the thing that brought us all together in the first place- horses!
We all decided to drive up sometime on Friday morning so we missed Thursday and some of Friday but we were able to catch a ton of the demos and seminars and get in plenty of shopping over the weekend. I had never even heard of Equine Affaire before moving to Indiana, but my michigander friend assures me that it was always THE midwestern horse event when she was growing up and that it would be amazing. I didn’t quite know what to compare it to. I have attended the Minnesota Horse Expo a bunch of times; I went to Rolex couple of years ago; I’m no stranger to the Kentucky Horse Park; I’ve been to various horse theater/circus type performances; and I volunteered at the World Equestrian Games in 2010 so I was trying to imagine what Equine Affaire would be like. It’s kind of a combination of a few of those things- smaller in some regards and bigger in others. It’s not a show, though there are a few shows in the program. The seminars and demos were great- this is obviously this event’s bread and butter (and the shopping, of course).
There were clinicians from several disciplines that offered both demos and presentations on various topics. My friends and I did some “divide and conquer” but also ending up in several of the same talks/demos throughout the day. I attended many demos/talks with Jan Ebeling who was the main dressage clinician for the event. I found him to be a really great instructor but our group was a little less enthused about his actual riding. We all enjoyed his pronunciation of volte with his German accent. The woman rider he taught was a very competent, fair rider on several dreamboat warmbloods throughout the weekend. Jan helped her improve in every short lesson and even got her to attempt a line of two-tempis that she had never ridden previously on one of the horses. She nailed them. The audience lapped it up.
I watched some of the western/natural horsemanship guys- really enjoyed James Cooler. I watched Hunter/Jumper Jeff Cook lead a group lesson and loved his style and his feedback to the riders. I listened to talks from a couple DVMs and biomechanics buffs.
We also got tickets to attend the Fantasia show on Saturday night. I loved the dressage freestyle, the garrocha, the drill teams, and the Percherons and Minis. There was an Icelandic horse part of the show that was mostly just confusing and focused too heavily on malfunctioning sparklers and unfortunately the vaulting/circus crew missed several of their tricks. I get it, that stuff is freaking hard and this was their 3rd night performing it.
One of the things that impressed me so much about nearly all of the riding seminars and performances was how professional and chill the majority of the horses were. Horses of nearly every breed just casually strutted their stuff amid train noise, sliding doors, people walking everywhere, scary arena ventilation fans, cheering crowds, inclement weather, blowing plastic bags…. I mean the whole thing was like de-spooking clinic and none of these horses batted an eye! Meanwhile, I sat in the dressage demos getting nervous over every noise, moving thing, or gust of wind that would have sent Harley bolting into the next county and me promptly into the dirt. Mad props to all the consummate professional horses out there wearing their big boy and big girl pants for their riders and/or props to these riders for making it seem like their horses are all bombproof.
There were only a couple picky criticisms of the event- there wasn’t enough event staff especially to deal with the parking lot traffic and I attended one demo that didn’t thrill me- it was about massage for the sport horse and the guy was just very repetitive. It was supposed to be a demo showing massage tips you could use on your own horses, but he more or less spent the whole time emphasizing icing and did a kinesio taping demo. I was hoping for some hands-on examples of massage techniques. But, hey, if only one demo ended up being so-so, that’s pretty good! Overall, it was a great weekend, a really nice experience, and a blast with my friends!