When it comes to equestrian interests, the annual Midwest Horse Fair doesn’t, well, horse around. One of the nation’s largest three-day horse fairs, it is back for its 37th year, Friday through Sunday at the Alliant Energy Center.
There will be an abundance of everything equine-related, from education to entertainment. The event takes over the Alliant Energy Center grounds for the weekend with more than 300 scheduled activities such as lectures, demonstrations, shows and seminars, plus 500-plus exhibitors packed throughout Exhibition Hall, the New Holland Pavilions, Alliant Energy Center Arena and the Dane County Coliseum.
“We even added more shopping this year, about 50 booth spaces,” said Megan Hanuszczak, lead event coordinator for the Midwest Horse Fair. “People are used to this massive shopping experience and it’s expanded this year.”
Last year, an MHF-record 61,000 people attended over the three-day period, Hanuszczak said, and similar numbers are expected this time around. The 2016 theme, “The Sky’s the Limit,” even adds a little Las Vegas-type appeal to the event, put on by the Wisconsin Horse Council.
Hanuszczak said offering new and different presentations every year helps to maintain the popularity of the MHF, which began in Madison in 1979. Organizers are always seeking presenters for the fair, including “up and coming people and newer names,” and put together a list that covers a variety of topics appealing to a wide audience, not just horse professionals, she added.
“We like to keep things fresh,” Hanuszczak said. “We don’t stick to the same thing each year. We want this to be a good place to come to see those up and comers along with the world-renowned experts we’ve always had.
“We are constantly evolving so we’re meeting everyone’s interests.”
Seminar topics range from recreation (“ABC’s of Trail Riding,” “Horse Camping 101”) to performance and training (“Trick Riding,” “How Stress Affects us in the Ring,” “Western Pleasure Judging”) to equipment-related (“How Bits Work,” “Saddle Fitting and Fixing Issues”) to animal care (“Laminitis: Causes, Prevention and Treatment”) to scientific (“Equine Forage Quality and Waste Management”).
Horse-related accoutrements also get their due with presentations such as “I Sew, I Want to Sell,” “Rawhide Braiding 101” and “All That Glitters — We Love Our Bling!” And other animals are represented, too, with “Mule Problems,” “Backyard Chickens and Horses,” “Your Dog’s Nutrition Dilemma” and “Introduction to a Cow,” for example.
Here’s more of what visitors will find on the weekend schedule:
- “Top 10 Questions You’ve Wanted to Ask a Farrier”: The MHF’s official farrier, Dean Moshier, addresses attendees’ shoeing questions.
- “Moves That Matter”: One of three presentations this year by area barrel-racing expert Pam Bound of Showtime Arena in Deerfield, along with “Finding the Right Fit” and “Stop the Charge.”
- “First Aid — What to Do Until the Vet Arrives”: Dr. Erica Reinman from the Janesville Equine Hospital and Clinic, the MHF’s official veterinarian group, offers this practical presentation.
- “Communicating with Your Horse from A to Z”: Led by self-professed “horse-aholic” and quarter-horse expert Jim Dudley, a native Iowan now in Columbia, Missouri.
- “Strength and Fitness Exercises for the Horse”: Apparently it’s not just people who need to worry about their workout habits, as equine fitness expert Jec Ballou notes.
For children and families, there’s lots to love at the Midwest Horse Fair, including the Kids Corral area that features hands-on activities and educational opportunities. There also is a new competition for young riders this year: the Team Slot Challenge. Ages 18 and under will compete in two-person teams on an obstacle-course challenge that measures speed and agility.
“We try really hard to keep it as a family event,” Hanuszczak said. “It’s for everyone who has any interest at all in horses.”
Speaking of those horses, more than two dozen breeds are represented at the fair in numerous Breed and Discipline Demonstrations, at the Stallion Avenue showcase and in events such as the popular Liberty Presentations where horses are highlighted free of all tack. Throughout the grounds, stalls and trailers are full of horses of all sorts.
Another favorite is the evening rodeo held in conjunction with the MHF. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association has stops Friday and Saturday nights at the Dane County Coliseum; the PRCA ProRodeo requires a separate ticket for admission.
All told, Hanuszczak said, the Midwest Horse Fair is a giant undertaking for its organizers, which includes a five-person staff that works full-time year-round to plan the three-day event.
“It’s everything involved in organizing,” she said, “clinics and presenters — everything.
“And then there’s the back end of it that people don’t always think about … even things like having enough Porta-potties on the grounds.”
While many who come to the MHF are regulars who return year after year, the event welcomes newcomers, Hanuszczak said, noting that the event website has full schedules and an interactive map to make planning a visit easier. The map also is available as a mobile app download, so attendees can better navigate the grounds on site.