Equine expositions are especially unique in the world of events. They're not “trade shows” in the traditional sense. Industry trade shows are events where only those involved with the industry, from manufacturing companies to retailers, attend and do business. The consumer is not involved at all. They are also not “consumer expositions” in the traditional sense either.
Consumer expositions, like those that cater to the “Home and Garden” or “Sportsman’s” crowd, are activity or genre specific. The exhibitors participating are there for one reason: to sell products and market their brands. You get to try and buy products and, if you are lucky (or prepared), you can learn something that may enhance your sport.
So, what is an equine/rural lifestyle exposition? Interestingly enough, it is primarily an “educational opportunity” mixed with some elements of a traditional trade show and a traditional consumer exposition. At the larger equine/rural lifestyle expositions you, the equine enthusiast and your horse, can get coaching from your favorite nationally known clinician like Chris Cox, Pat Parelli, Julie Goodnight, Scott Purdum and Ken McNabb.
You can learn all about the new and exciting equine sports and activities from those groups and clubs actively doing them and if they are right for you and your horse. You can learn about proper nutrition, hoof care, industry-based careers, innovations in training and trends in equine activities all in one place. Attendees have all sorts of opportunities to get more educated and inspired by some amazing individuals who are there to share their vast knowledge and experiences.
At these events, attendees can learn a variety of crafts that will enrich their equine lifestyle by participating in hands-on do-it-yourself classes and workshops. Attendees can meet a variety of equine breeds and decide if a Bashkir Curly Horse or Kiger Mustang should be in their future.
Many of these events also offer the opportunity to purchase your next horse. Attendees can preview the horses all weekend long, talk with the owners/trainers and then either make an offer or participate in an auction-style sale.
There are also product demonstrations abound at the larger equine expositions. Want to know about a specific brand of clipper, like Andis? Odds are they are demonstrating their products at the event and are more than happy to show you all the features of their product. Not sure in a bitless bridle or halter is right for you? Odds are they are being demonstrated at the event and you can learn all about them. Unsure if feeding a particular mineral or supplement is right for your horse? Odds are the manufacturer is there, ready to answer your questions and even give you a free sample to try. By bringing your questions and your notebook, you can learn a great deal and vastly improve your horsemanship in the process.
Shopping is just a small, but very fun, part of the equine exposition. The larger equine expositions attract the very best companies, craftsmen, products and services within the equine industry. These exhibitors bring their top of the line and new products to display and sell at the event.
Most of these events offer hand-made tack, saddles, and gear that you simply can't find on eBay, Amazon or some discount online retailer. You can speak with amazing craftsmen first-hand and have things made custom, just for you or your horse. You can build relationships and share feedback with those companies and craftsmen you love. The level of face-to-face interaction attendees will get with the exhibitors is unparalleled. Not only can attendees purchase the best products but they can learn how to maintain the value of these products and get the most out of them.
The other side of the shopping coin at larger equine exposition is this: the event and the exhibitors are not ”flea market vendors” selling cheap knock-offs and usually do not have a discount store mentality. While there may be “show specials” offered by certain exhibitors and even some deals on last year’s products, most of the exhibitors bring their best products and this is reflected in the price and amount of products they have for purchase at the event.
Many times they are premiering a new product that you cannot buy at your local retailer! Keep in mind that the exhibitors are there to promote and exhibit their very best products and that most of these exhibitors run very “lean,” meaning they do not have surplus merchandise in their booths that they are hoping to clearance out. The economic downturn did some harsh things to the entire equine industry. Who you see at these larger expositions are the ones who survived and are still holding on. Support them as they have supported the industry. Enjoy the interaction, learn lots, and have fun!
So, while shopping is certainly fun, keep in mind that it is only one part of the great exposition experience. Shopping enriches and enhances the experience, much like spices enrich the flavor of a great stew. When you attend a larger equine exposition, take in the entire event and experience it for what it is.
Last year’s event or the one you attended ten years ago is in the past, so live in the moment. Everything else in today’s world changes and evolves. So too, will your favorite equine expositions. Attend and support these amazing events. Relish all that they have to offer you from education to shopping to fun entertainment. Staying home or just going for the shopping means that the event itself will eventually fade away. And that doesn't help anyone.