PENDLETON — The S.C. Horsemen’s Council’s 23rd Horse Expo 2016 at the T. Ed Garrison Arena was by no means for horse lovers alone.
The lineup included 45 vendors, health seminars, educational programs and equine exhibition, as a fascinating array of people came together to promote better living with or without an equine partner.
Vendors hawked an array of goods for home and barn, including Miss Bee Haven’s “Stank Dog Soup” canine shampoo, horse supplement Equipride, state-of-the-art saddles, sparkling western bling and tanned cow hides.
Plunked down amid livestock feed, western hats, and cowboy bibles, was the mansion of live-in horse trailers from Happy Trails, displaying travel dreams to those on a modest budget.
Unlike a typical vendor exhibition, there were many not-for-profit organizations.
Frank Allison, a retired banker, volunteers with Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) based in Anderson. Allison described the group as 30 or so “foot soldiers” who assist sheriff and police department search-and-rescue missions, as well as support during traffic and natural disasters.
The Mounted Search and Rescue assist these missions on horseback.
“Our help costs nothing and we go where we are most needed,” Allison said.
Terri Stemper, director of the Dream Equine Therapy Center, spoke of the “nurse mare industry” in which female horses are bred strictly for milk production, their foals “disposed of” at birth.
Her organization saves these newborns from a cruel demise with vet care and rehabilitation, subsequently finding foster care and suitable adoptive homes for them.
“Thousands of foals are abandoned every year,” she said. “We just try to help as many as we can.”
Debi Metcalf of Stolen Horse International in Shelby, N.C., spoke of her own effort to help the community.
Although her story ended happily when she was reunited with her gray mare 51 weeks after she was stolen, Metcalf knows firsthand the anguish of the ordeal, and has parlayed that pain into helping others by creating a central “bank” that stores owner information of micro-chipped horses.
Of the 11 organizations listed in the cowboy church network, the Happy Trails Cowboy Church in Pelzer, among others, had a large table staffed by an outgoing group.
Horse of My Heart Equine-Partnered Learning and “Let’s Saddle Up” Therapeutic Riding promoted equine-assisted therapy programs for young and old. Each of the organizations provides services to special needs children, senior adults, and service veterans, as well as adults struggling with physical and/or mental health issues.
The activities extended well beyond the organized stalls of vendors and non-profits. In the outdoor arena, the obstacle challenge was navigated by participants ages 4 to 65, judged on a successful ride of the challenging course and on the horses’ willingness (or lack of) to execute the exercises.
The Horse Expo is founded on the equine experience, but this event provided more than the name suggests. In addition to the nonprofit organizations, Scott Purdum of Fredericksburg, Va., demonstrated how horse owners develop a better line of non-verbal communication with their equine partners.
The event was held Feb. 6.