California Riding Magazine • May, 2012

Western States Horse Expo
Chris Cox, Bernie Traurig and Steve Rother headline the annual equine extravaganza in Sacramento June 8-10.

Ready your credit cards, dredge up every horsemanship question that's crossed your mind since birth and prepare for long, engaging days of learning, socializing and shopping.

That's right, it's time again for the Western States Horse Expo, to be held June 8-10, at the Cal Expo Fairgrounds in Sacramento.
Natural Horsemanship and three-time Road To The Horse winner Chris Cox, acclaimed hunter/jumper educator Bernie Traurig and "the horseteacher" Steve Rother are among the marquee presenters on a long list of experts who will share their techniques and insights with attendees. Project Cowboy: Cowgirls Only is new in the entertainment line-up, giving the Expo's trademark competition, the Magnificent 7, a run for its money.

Secretariat's Meadow author Kate Chenery Tweedy (daughter of Secretariat owner Penny Chenery) is one of several literary stars slated for the Expo's new Book Corral, which complements the Young Riders Park and the Equine Dream Art Show. These highlights are in addition to the Expo standard of acres of vendors offering barns, trucks, trailers, show and recreational equipment and clothing for horse and rider and every imaginable item that goes along with owning horses and enjoying the equestrian lifestyle.

Photo by Kathy Higgins

Led by founder Miki Nelsen, the excellent Horse Expo team is coming off 13 years of success in Sacramento, along with a terrific debut, this past February, of Horse Expo Pomona in Southern California. They know what they are doing when it comes to providing attendees good reason to return year after year.

Well known for his show on RFD-TV and his "Ride The Journey" tour, Chris Cox focuses on teaching people straightforward, practical ways to gain a better relationship with their horses. He's an expert colt starter and a high performance roper, among other skills, but his techniques work equally well with horses and riders in any discipline.

Miki is particularly excited about bringing english disciplines master, Bernie Traurig, onto the agenda. Having the unusual resume of competing at the highest international levels in jumping, dressage and eventing, Bernie has a riding resume that is the stuff of legend. For the last few years, he's risen to even broader acclaim through his EquestrianCoach.com website. Visitors and subscribers to this educational riding and horsemanship site get instruction and insights from Bernie and a long list of guest instructors.

Photo by Charles Hilton

Bernie will focus on the American forward system of riding. "The system of forward riding is three parts: it's based on the position of the rider, controls of the horse or aids the riders are using and the schooling system for the horse," he explains. "People still don't understand the difference between the forward riding system and the classical dressage riding system, which are clearly different. The forward riding system is something that is being taught in the United States Hunter Jumper Assn. trainer certification program. It standardizes riding in America so that we come up with a very good basis of teaching here, for both the trainers and for riders."

Bernie will demonstrate the forward riding system while working with riders and horses in a clinic setting in one of the Expo's arenas.
A popular clinician in the Northwest, Steve Rother makes his first Horse Expo appearance. Steve is dedicated to all horse people who strive to teach their horses by educating themselves. A two-time winner of the Mane Event Trainer's Challenge in Canada, Steve emphasizes the development of a willing partnership rather than focusing on a particular discipline.

Photo by Charles Hilton

An Intellectual Buffet

As in the past, Horse Expo's line-up of presenters is truly impressive, if not a tad overwhelming. Attendees are advised to study the Expo's website, where detailed biographies of each speaker are posted, to best plan a visit that fulfills their needs and interests.

This list of presenters just scratches the surface of what's available at the Expo this year: renowned gaited horseman Larry Whitesell; famous "Cowboy Dressage" master Eitan Beth-Halachmy; Certified Horsemanship Association Master Level Riding Instructor Christy Landwehr; Connected Riding® founder Peggy Cummings; horse husbandry and equine management professor Dr. John Shelle, Ph.D.; equine nutritionist Clair Thunes, Ph.D,; imprinting expert Robert M. Miller, DVM; and, just confirmed, Dana Hokana, on winning at western pleasure. Again, that's just a few of the speakers.

The Trail Symposium is another Expo staple. Politicians and trail enthusiasts gather to discuss how to keep trails open and maintained, now and in the future, and how to work in harmony with state and federal officials who oversee many of these trails. It's a great forum for veteran trail advocates and those inspired to join this important cause.

Wonderful breed demonstrations and a thriving horse sale are additional features to account for the Expo's high rate of return visitors. Trained riding horses and a select section of cutting-bred yearlings and broodmares will be available at auction. Horses for trail, cutting, cattle work, roping and pleasure riding, and a few select ponies and draft horses, are all on the sales block.

Chris Cox is one of the headliners at this year's Western States Horse Expo. Photo by David Stoecklein

The new Project Cowboy: Cowgirls Only offers a handful of brave cowgirls a chance at fame, and lots of entertainment for spectators. This is a four-round competition testing riding skills, screen appeal and the ability to think on one's feet (in the saddle). In short, it's American Idol meets America's Got Talent for cowgirls. The round at Horse Expo is a qualifier for an eventual RFD-TV show searching for the "Next Great American Horsewoman." It will be produced by the crew behind the Extreme Mustang Makeover and Road To The Horse.

The Expo's Magnificent 7, of course, is the granddaddy of today's many cowboy competitions. In this event, a dozen top riders convene for an intense one-day riding competition, where one horse and one rider demonstrate their skill and versatility in four events: herd work, rein work, steer stopping and fence work. On Friday night, seven finalists compete for a $25,000 purse, and the best horseman will receive the title of Magnificent 7 All-Around Stock Horse Champion.

Horse Expo tickets are available online in advance and at the door for $18 per day, or $45 for a three-day pass. A one-day child's pass is $5 and Senior Sunday (60-plus) is $12; $3 Expo Buck discount avaialable on website.

For more information, visit www.horsexpo.com 530-672-7490.

Photo by Kathy Higgins