Chris Cox Stars in a Revamped Horse Expo Pomona. Photo: David R. Stoecklein

California Riding Magazine • December, 2012

Mission Accomplished
Striker exemplifies the effectiveness of Red Bucket Equine Rescue's unique approach.

by Kim F. Miller

Mike Majors, Pat Parelli and Kerry Kuhn.

Institutions of higher learning have core curricula. So does Horse Expo Pomona, coming to the Pomona Fairgrounds Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 2013.
Institutions of higher learning augment their core curricula with courses in specific fields of interest, then enhance that knowledge with in-depth study of narrow topics within that subject. So does Horse Expo Pomona.

Institutions of higher learning have astronomical admission fees. Horse Expo Pomona does not.

Eighteen dollars, or $15 if you pick up $3 Expo Bucks at participating Southern California tack stores, is the cost of daily immersion in subjects ranging from starting a colt to caring for a champion's bowed tendon.

Sending attendees back to their barns with information and tactics they can apply in everyday horse care, riding, training and competing is the emphasis at this year's Horse Expo. A sister to the Western States Horse Expo that's been held every summer in Sacramento for 15 years, Horse Expo Pomona returns to Southern California for the second time in 2013. It will again be staged Thursday through Saturday to avoid conflict with Super Bowl Sunday.

Vaulting - watch the clinic, go practice on the dummy.

To execute its education-oriented mission, Horse Expo emphasizes subjects over celebrity clinicians. If a celebrity clinician is a good fit for the subject, they'll be on the agenda for sure, but in longer sessions that allow time to convey the meat and potatoes of their method rather than shorter stints that sometimes focus more on marketing their materials. Another clinician criterion is that "they be out in the trenches" working and succeeding with horses on a daily basis, says Miki Nelson, Horse Expo founder and organizer.

Core Subjects & Discipline Tracks

"People need to be prepared to listen and sit a little longer than they have in the past," she continues. Headliner clinician Chris Cox will have a three-hour evening time block designed to be both educational and entertaining. It's enough time to really delve into his techniques and for some fun, too, like watching an Australian dog trainer who has adapted Chris' teaching to his needs.

Colt starting, problem horses, problem riders and refinement are the four core curriculum topics that will be addressed during daytime presentations in one of the Fairground's main exhibition arenas. Throughout the day, subsets within each category will be addressed. The topic of problem horses, for example, may include sessions focused on trailer loading, bucking/rearing, shying or ground manners, etc. In the problem riders category, improving balance and conditioning, overcoming fear and understanding equine behavior are likely subsets.

Meet your friends, enjoy the food and learn from
your favorite clinician, or meet a new one.

The core subject of refinement will address more advanced techniques in various training areas: i.e., preparing to move up to a higher division in dressage or jumping or getting ready for a longer endurance ride.

Presentations related to the nuances in six disciplines: show ring western, show ring english, mounted shooting, trail, polo and vaulting, will take place in another arena throughout the Expo's three days. These subjects will stay the same over the years, with the variety coming from how different horsemen present them. At presstime, renowned hunter/jumper coach Bernie Traurig was close to inked as a sure star of the english show sessions. He's a big proponent of the American Forward Riding System, so it's likely his presentations would be rooted in that, whereas another trainer might pick another topic, gymnastic work for equitation riders, for example, or developing collected and extended gaits.

Most presenters will be on hand all three days of the Expo, allowing them to structure progressive instruction on a general theme, or go deeply into a different subject each time.

The Expo's overhauled format supports the inspiration that got its founder started way back when. "I believe that all horse people have the same thing in common," says Miki. "Whether we are whipping 50 miles down the trail or working on a dressage test, we all want the same things: a smart, safe, strong, sound horse; to be a smart, safe, strong rider; and to have equipment that fits and works. I don't care how expensive the horse is or what breed, we all want the same things."
The core curriculum and general discipline sessions are great guideposts for attendees wanting to make the most of their Expo time, and they encourage learning across the disciplines.

California Cowgirls and Ram Trucks welcoming attendees every morning.

Discipline-oriented sessions will also include the basics of each sport: i.e., what's expected of horse and rider, necessary equipment, costs, paths of advancement, etc.

The core and discipline-related subjects are further enhanced by topics covered in Horse Expo University that apply to all types of riding and horsekeeping: conformation, anatomy, soundness, nutrition, saddle fit, etc. Presenters are all professional educators and the sessions tend toward the up close and personal. "Saddle fitting, for example, is a subject that people need to get their eyes and hands on," notes Miki. "People need to see it using actual horses and see how the saddle fit changes when the horse is moving and how that changes when there's a rider on board."

Well-known anatomy and biomechancs expert "Dr. Deb." Bennett, PhD, is set for six two-hour sessions. The frequently-published author is a terrific presenter and is famous for her living paintings of equine musculature and skeletal structures that bring equine anatomy to life. John Bozanich, Raye Lochart, Nancy Loving, DVM and Peggy Cummings are just a few other well-known presenters on the Expo's long list.

Tried & Trues

Familiar features like the Book Corral, Young Rider Park, the Trail Symposium and the vast display of stabling and trailering equipment known as Rigs & Digs are back by popular demand. California Highway Patrol officers will be on hand to perform free trailer safety inspections and tips on buying the right trailer or enhancing a current trailer are more options on the Expo's course list.

In its 15 years in Sacramento, Horse Expo's Trail Symposium has earned a strong reputation for addressing various legislative, environmental and trail preservation realities that all horse owners should stay abreast of. This year, the Pomona event will expand to include details about how to get involved in trail riding, either recreationally or competitively.

Meet your friends, enjoy the food and learn
from your favorite clinician, or meet a new one.

Horse Expo veterans are used to some form of pure entertainment. Sacramento attendees count on the thrilling Magnificent 7 competition and Miki acknowledges that there has been some pressure to try to recreate that down South. "There's only one Magnificent 7," she says. "But, I can assure you there will be some kind of reined cow horse competition for entertainment in Pomona. We are working on it now!"
Given the steamroller success of Horse Expo in both Sacramento and Pomona, it would have been easy for the organizers to rest on their laurels and keep everything the same. Instead, they are shaking things up with the core curriculum and discipline tracks that dominate the Expo's structure in 2013. "It offers a lot of meat and potatoes for people," Miki says. "It's all about providing quality education."

It's true, however, that our brains can only hold so much. At a certain point, everybody needs a shopping break. From fun to functional, Horse Expo Pomona will uphold the tradition of providing shopping ops galore.

Tickets for Horse Expo Pomona are on sale now and Expo Bucks will be available at participating retailers soon. For updated clinician information, visit www.horseexpoevents.com or call 800-352-2411.