The annual Equine Affaire at the Big E fairgrounds in Springfield is to horse lovers what the Westminster dog show is to pooch aficionados. You could even call it horse porn.
The event runs Thursday through Saturday. There are clinics each day, a breed barn and exhibits, and tons of vendor booths. Like Gypsy Vanner horses? Friesians? Icelandic ponies? They're all there in the breed barn. Want to know how to braid a mane for a show? There's a clinic on that. Want to get better at barrel racing? Check out Friday's 9:30 a.m. clinic on "Correcting Common Barrel Racing Rider Errors."
Connecticut will be well represented at the event. Jenifer Nadeau, an associate professor and the equine extension specialist at the University of Connecticut, will give a talk Thursday at 5 p.m. on "How to Go Green on Your Horse Farm." Courtney King-Dye, a 2008 U.S. Olympic dressage rider who lives in New Milford, will give dressage clinics at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
I've attended Equine Affaire five times. It's well worth the trip. For most of us, it's the only chance we'll get to see trainers like Clinton Anderson, Chris Cox and Julie Goodnight. In the past I've seen clinics by John Lyons, Monty Roberts, and Pat Parelli.
The titles of the clinics alone make you want to attend: "No More Naughty Horse;" "Poop Happens" (as any horseperson knows, we can prattle on about poop for hours); "Help! I Don't Have Brakes;" "Sidesaddle for the 21st Century." The clinics and demonstrations range in length from 30 minutes to 90 minutes, and are scattered throughout five areas: the Coliseum, two sites in the Mallary Complex, the Young Building, the Mallary Arena, and the Better Living Center.
A few tips:
Δ Dress warmly if it's a cold day. You'll be moving from one building to another and some of the buildings aren't heated.
Δ If you plan to spend the day and are a picky eater (or the parent of one), bring lunch. There's not much in the way of healthy food. It's mostly the same kind of food you'd find at the Big E.
Δ If you don't like being elbow-to-elbow with strangers, this might not be the event for you. In the breed and vendor areas, for example, it's often wall-to-wall people.
Δ If you're attending a clinic in one of the smaller venues, get there early. It can sometimes be hard to hear or see the instructors if you don't have a good seat.
Δ It's a good idea to print out a schedule of events for the day(s) you are planning to attend. There's so much going on it can be confusing. Daily schedules are available at http://www.equineaffaire.com/
html. A program is also a good idea, since it includes a map with locations of the various buildings.
Gates open at 8:30 a.m. each day. Tickets are $13 a day or $48 for a four-day pass for adults; $8 a day or $28 for a four-day pass for children ages 7 to 12; and children 6 and under are free. For more information, go to www.equineaffaire.com.
Besides being an equestrian, Bonnie Phillips is The Courant's city/suburban editor. Her horse is named Annie.