11th annual Washington State Horse Expo offers sense of community to all

The 11th annual Washington State Horse Expo is back at the Clark County Event Center this weekend with all things equine — a welcoming event for both the experienced rider and the curious newcomer.

Throughout the three-day event, visitors can participate in seminars on farm management, watch dressage performances, learn from experts on how to improve riding technique, and peruse clothing and accessories from local vendors, among other activities.

Since its first edition in 2011, the event has transformed into a beautiful and informative display of community, said Dave Hammersley, the captain of the Clark County Mounted Patrol.

“When it started, it was really just a few tents and some of us sitting around,” Hammersley said, laughing. “But it’s grown every year. It’s become an encyclopedia of all things horses, ranching and riding.”

Hammersley, who with the Patrol oversees security and other organizational needs for the event, said an influx of people moving into the area in recent years has helped to reignite the conversation around how horses can be used both practically and for entertainment.

If You Go

What: Washington State Horse Expo

When: The final leg of the three-day event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.

Where: Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds, 17402 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield

Cost: Admission is $11 for adults and $9 for children and senior citizens; parking is available for $6. Children ages 6 and younger are admitted free with an adult.

COVID restrictions: Masks or face coverings are required while indoors for any attendee over the age of 5.

Perhaps the biggest thing to be noticed at the event is a focus on informing one another on how to grow their understanding of horses and ranching — Hammersley motioned to a booth just across from his team that featured a collection of probiotic feeds and other nutritional supplements promoting horse health.

And for families with young children, there’s no shortage of attractions to delight those seeking entertainment.

At one end of the expo on Saturday morning were the Gypsy Chyx — a local group of women who raise and train Gypsy Drum horses, which are a unique breed of smaller, mild-mannered dressage horses. Groups of children giggled and played with Dream and Jillie, two 14-year-old Gypsy horses whose manes were colorfully outfitted with glitter, bows and other trinkets.

Each horse donned a decorative unicorn horn — an element that I and a number of the visiting children had to double-check to ensure that it wasn’t, in fact, real.

Amanda Ableidinger, one of the Gypsy Chyx and a member of the BlackPearl Friesian Dance Troupe, got Dream (whose full given name is Million-Dollar Dream) about five years ago from a rancher in California. The breed, she said, is entirely new to the region and is originally indigenous to the United Kingdom.

It wasn’t until 1996 that the breed starting being imported to he United States; the Gypsy Chyx have been a driving force in introducing them to Southwest Washington and parts of Northern Oregon.

Today, Dream is preparing for her dressage performance at tonight’s Equine Extravaganza, where Ableidinger will lead the horse on a routine set to music.

“Dream is very gifted at dressage,” Ableidinger said. “Usually, kids ride her; this is the only time of year I really ride her. She’s a real sweetheart.”

Trena Kelley, a La Center native whose daughter Kaelyn had helped prepare the two horses’ decor for the day, said it’s inspiring every year to see the number of young people falling in love with horses and the community that surrounds the expo.

And after last year’s event was canceled amid COVID- 19 concerns and health and safety protocols, it’s especially great to be back together, Kelley said.

“It’s a beautiful event. Everyone comes together each year like it’s one big family reunion,” Kelley said. “Seeing young kids fall in love with horses each year, it’s wonderful.”

The Expo continues from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. The Gypsy Chyx are slated to make one final appearance at 1:30 p.m. at the Kids Corral of the event center.

Article Source: The Columbian