Extreme Mustang Makeover big hit at horse fair

More than 14,000 people attended the 11th annual Northwest Horse Fair and Expo in Albany, March 19-21.

The three-day affair was a horse lover’s dream, offering a showcase of training clinicians, a diverse variety of breeds, the Extreme Mustang Makeover competition, lectures, demonstrations and a vendor trade show.

Brimming with exciting and colorful exhibitions, the event is one of the top equestrian shows in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the Pacific Northwest Region. With the smell of delicious food, a full parking lot, rows of horse trailers and RVs, the Linn County Fair and Expo Center looked to be hosting its annual county fair. However, attendees were in for a completely different treat.

World-class horse trainers Al Dunning, Peggy Cummings, Nick Karazissis, George Williams and Steve Rother, held a variety of workshops.

A gathering of equine exhibitors from the Western states presented a gorgeous assortment of breeds. Drafts, Friesians, Andalusians, mountain horses, and miniature donkeys were just a portion of those on display. The Silver Edge Equestrian Group, Gypsy Horses West, Silverlite Rodeo and Gaited Horse Drill Teams were only a few examples of the performing shows.

Organized by Equine Promotions Inc., SilverLite Trailers presented the extravaganza along with sponsors Purina Mills, Northwest Rider Magazine, Andis Clippers, Coastal Farm and Ranch and Beelart Embroidery.

The Extreme Mustang Makeover competition was a spectator favorite. Organized by the Mustang Heritage Foundation in cooperation with the BLM, the competition showcased the usefulness and beauty of the mustangs through an adoptive auction held at the end of the event.

This past December, the BLM gathered 25 mustangs, ages 4 to 6 years old from herds throughout Oregon and Nevada and assigned them to 25 of the best trainers from Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The horsemen and women were given 90 days to train the animals to compete, with prize money totaling $7,500.

The pairs competed in the In Hand Competition, Obstacle Course and Freestyle Finals events. Watching the horses perform to music was simply fabulous and the abilities of the trainers were amazing.

Three experienced judges based their final decisions on the mustangs’ overall physical conditioning and skills. Learning about the intelligence and different breeds of the mustangs was truly fascinating, each of them having their own distinctive color, conformation and genetic makeup.

On the final day of the show, the adoptive auction of the horses began by competitive bid from BLM pre-approved buyers, who also received a tax write-off for their purchases. With the minimum price set at $125, the average bids were $750, which was favorable in the current economic climate. The sale topper was Sierra Silver, who sold for $2,650.

Kim Omnes, of Dallas won the final bid on the grand champion winner. Initially looking for a gelding for her husband, she fell in love with the judges favorite, a blaze faced, red sorrel mare named Princess Buttercup. Trained by Jasmine Ison from Seal Rock, the gentle and delicately built horse was light on her feet and a crowd favorite.

The Expo’s daily lectures were interesting and included therapeutic riding for the handicapped, equine tourism, horse ownership, insurance and more.

Several demonstrations included horsemanship and equine massage. Andis Company and Dana Boyd Miller’s body-clipping patterns were interesting. Picture perfect, the intricate designs on equine coats looked truly incredible.

One hundred twenty-five vendors brought out their wares to the large indoor Willamette Event Center. From trailers to tack and trinkets to training, everything for the horse and farm enthusiast was there. Sales were up from the previous year and many vendors were happy with the excellent service and facilities that the Linn County Expo Center provided.

Mike Strong, a vendor from Reno, Nev., said he was impressed by the easy-in, easy-out access. Owner and operator of his family business, Michael Strong Leather Products, the company’s large inventory of handsomely crafted chinx and conchos was impressive.

It was inspiring to see people within the horse industry giving back positively to their communities. Strong was the long-time sponsor of an annual chuck wagon campout and scavenger hunt ride, which raises $5,000 to $10,000 per year for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Other non-profit organizations and exhibitors, such as the Central Oregon Mustang Coalition and Benson Ranch Miniature Donkeys, provided educational and volunteer services in one aspect or another.

Overall, this year’s Northwest Horse Fair and Expo was a big hit and I look forward to attending it again. If you desire a rare and exciting experience in the world of horses, this event is definitely a must see.