|A girl enjoys her first "horseback ride" at the FEI World Cup Finals. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.|
To that end, along with the usual fancy high-end equestrian boutiques in the trade fair in the CenturyLink Center are lots of kid-friendly "intro to horses" interactive exhibits, a stableful of horses of various breeds for admiring, and other introductory-type attractions. As I wandered around the trade fair this morning, I found myself amidst throngs of schoolchildren on field trips -- most elementary-school-aged, some older -- as well as a good number of folks with various disabilities. Let's just say that the crowd did not look like the people we're accustomed to seeing at horse shows -- and that's a mighty welcome change. Quite frankly, the future of our industry and our sport depends on it.
The kids seemed equally fascinated by the real horses and the make-believe ones. Volunteers were doing things guaranteed to appeal to the younger set, like drawing forth a long length of tubular pink material from a box and announcing the length of a horse's intestines. Of course the kids loved it, complete with laughter and the cries of "Ew, gross!"
Confession: I loved it too. Among those tykes is undoubtedly one who will get bitten by the horse bug as completely and utterly as you and I did. And who knows: That little kid may well be our next McLain Ward or Laura Graves.
|The World Cup Finals aren't just about dressage and jumping. US dressage rider Endel Ots was spotted schooling a demonstration horse alongside a Western rider. Photo by Jennifer Bryant.|
|Of course, a trade fair is all about shopping! The USDF's Betsy Hamilton (left) and Sydney Manning are staffing the USDF merchandise booth. Stop by and say hello! Photo by Jennifer Bryant.|