Hold your horses
Today and tomorrow, more than 14 breeds of horses will be galloping into the Pauline Whitaker Animal Science Arena. No, it’s not some crazy mass equine escape, it’s the annual event where saddles are sold, trained horses do tricks, and animal science students raise money for the Dorothy E. King Equine Program.
This is the fifth year for the UA Horse Festival, and each year it grows bigger and bigger, said Nancy Jack, director of the Equine Program.
“The first year we had the horse festival, 2,000 people showed up, so we figured that was a big hit,” she said. “I think [this year] is going to be large.”
New highlights of the festival this year are the breeds barn, where visitors can enter and see the breeds up close, and a kids’ corral, where parents can drop off their children for educational and fun horse-related activities. Kids can make their own stick horses to participate in a parade Saturday afternoon.
The quality of the festival has also gotten better through the last few years, she said.
“Every year we’ve done this, we’ve gotten more professional,” she said. “The quality of the animals is very high.”
Around 6 p.m. tonight, Jason Vanlandingham, world champion horse reiner, will give a demonstration, which is mainly for those who are passionate about learning the craft, Jack said. Saturday’s events, however, are more entertainment-based.
“[Saturday is] for people who really don’t know anything about horses … they may not own a horse or even an acre of land,” she said.
Saturday there will be hunter and jumper demonstrations as well as a parade of breeds and therapeutic riding displays. Belgian horses will be coming that are more than 18 hands high, Jack said.
A hand is equal to about four inches, which means the horses are more than six feet tall. About 20 minutes later, visitors can see the miniature horses, which are less than 32 inches tall.
Jack started the Horse Festival in 2000, to increase awareness about the Equine Program.
“The first year I was hired here, we wanted to have some kind of event to let the general public and the equine industry know that we had a horse program at the UA,” she said. “So we decided that we would do one that would showcase all different breeds and types.”
The Equine Program is part of the UA Animal Science Department and consists of five different equine classes and two internships where students “work at the barn and learn by doing,” she said. “It’s a very, very hands-on program.”
Jack is responsible for the Equine Program’s development and management. She has owned, trained, bred and managed horses for 22 years and started from scratch when creating the program.
“We didn’t have a bucket, we didn’t have a horse, we had nothing, zero, in January of 2000,” she said. Now the program has five major events a year, including today’s festival.
Proceeds from the festival go to take care of the Program’s horses, which are all donated except for the new foals, according to the Program Web site, www.uark.edu/depts/dekep/. Maintenance for the horses costs about $65,000 a year, Jack said, which includes feed, dental work, vaccinations and equipment. Other fundraisers, like the Razorback Roundup Livestock Auction, help as well. Students in the Program will sell 19 horses at that auction.
Festival events start at 6 p.m. today and 10 a.m. on Saturday. A full schedule of events can be found online at www.horsefestival.org.