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17 January 2019

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Midwest Horse Fair - Every Horse Lovers Dream

And it came true this year for 9 WDCTA members!

By Vicki Hodel (Central Chapter President)

WDCTA at Midwest Horse Fair 2016

Every year, thousands of horse enthusiasts (62,000 this year) come to Madison to watch, learn and enjoy horses. And every year, there are those in the stands saying to their friend “We could do that. Let’s do that!”

I know because I was one of them.

I was honored this year to chair and participate with a wonderful group, exposing WDCTA once again to the World. It had been a long time since WDCTA had participated in the Midwest Horse Fair. One of the Central Chapter members says to me “Hey! We should do a demonstration!” And so it began.

Click "Read More" to learn more about WDCTA at the 2016 Midwest Horse Fair! 


Finding riders and horses are first on the agenda. I was so excited when several existing members and newer members eagerly stepped up and were excited to participate. From the first meeting, everyone had wonderful ideas and we all worked together to create a dressage and eventing presentation. With Kris Blacklock’s drill team experience, we put our thoughts to paper and horse’s hooves to the arena.

Our second meeting was the horseless walk through. Did our ideas from our first meeting make sense for horse, rider, dressage and eventing? Would we run over each other? Success! We had a workable pattern.

For those that didn’t get a chance to see the demonstrations, we had 9 horses and riders. Four showcasing Traditional Dressage, three showcasing the Cross Country phase of Eventing and two showcasing the Show Jumping phase of Eventing. Oh, and eighteen volunteer ground crew personnel setting up a Dressage ring, three Cross Country fences and three Stadium fences -- all at the same time and within 10 minutes -- start to finish! Wow. There was a lot going on.

Back to practice. The first mounted meeting went extremely well. Everyone drove to Montello to a boarding stable with an indoor. Once again, Kris’ experience with Drill Team was invaluable. We spent the first portion horseless, walking the pattern so we understood what our positions were. Then mounted, we spent a portion of the time ensuring all the horses were listening to us, rating rider’s speed (especially around corners) to stay in sync, getting our horses used to having other horses near them - in front, side by side and behind them. Everyone did great. We ended the session with several rounds of pattern practice to our music. I think the horses learned the pattern faster than we did. We also created a rider tip sheet that included the choreographed intro and finale.

Our second and last mounted practice was the craziest ever. We all traveled to a boarding stable with an indoor in Brooklyn in rain, sleet, snow, high winds and white out snow storm (all within 4 hours). Riders and horses arrived safe and sound. A lot to do at our final practice: setting up the dressage court, x-country and stadium jumps within 55 seconds, synchronizing ground crew, horses and riders, and practicing our choreographed dressage and eventing maneuvers to music. All the ground crew were there, the jumps and horses. Again we spent the beginning walking the pattern and working with the ground crew. Set up, take down. Repeat. Then we added the horses. This worked well because we could see what final adjustments needed to be made to make the demonstration run smoother. Within 3 hours, we were ready.

MHF 2016 Stall Displays

Fast forward to Thursday, April 14th, the entry day for Midwest Horse Fair participants. All the horses are brought into the grounds, stalled and everything was set up. Curtains and decorations hung in the hospitality area, stall signs up and tack brought in. Then… two practice sessions! First up was the Coliseum. I had shown there, a few years ago, but I forgot what a big place it was! All the horses and riders took it in stride. We had 15 minutes to get horses acclimated to the coliseum seating, banners along the rails, audience hanging along the arena perimeter and practiced entering and leaving the Coliseum. Second practice was late afternoon in the HW Hutchinson Arena where we used our 15 minutes to practice our routine. Again, the horses did great. Meanwhile, I met with both announcers, and we discussed the narrative and music. Riders, horses, music and script were all set.

Saturday finally came and a large group of nervous riders and grounds crew, and calm horses made our way to the back of the Coliseum. As we’re waiting for our turn, Becky says “We’re really doing this!” Yes, yes we were! Places everyone! We’re next! Queue music. The ground crew entered, set up and the horses were ready to go. I remember about half way through, I wasn’t breathing. Big breath, smile and ….. WOW we’re really doing this!

When we were finished, all lined up and did our final salute…the crowd cheered and clapped excitedly. We made it! Our first Horse Fair demonstration in many years was over. Sunday’s ride went well also. The horses loved the attention for sure.

2016 WDCTA MHF Booth

I know for myself, I was so proud of not only my own horse, but everyone else’s horses as well. Everyone got along, was safe and was able to perform in a stressful situation. The friendships that were made during this, with both riders and grounds crew will last a lifetime.

What did riders take away from this endeavor?

 “I valued the outstanding camaraderie of fellow riders who went out of their way to ensure WDCTA was professionally represented during group practices at private farms, Triple Cross Equestrian Center, The Horse First Farm and at the Midwest Horse Fair. All in all, the MHF offered an exceptional way to build camaraderie and gain awareness of dressage and eventing. Very impressive!" ~ Kris Blacklock

“I had always wanted the opportunity to demonstrate on such a large scale a sport and hobby that truly means the world to me. Representing WDCTA at the MHF doing what I love was even better than I had hoped- the overall experience and the new and strengthened friendships will last a lifetime” ~ Cathy Wunderlich

"It was a very cool weekend bringing my horse to the Midwest Horse Fair. I think it drew a lot of attention to WDCTA, plus it provided a neat experience for members of WDCTA and their horses! I even learned more about WDCTA participating at the fair myself! I met a lot of people from the different chapters of WDCTA. I now consider the people I rode with and met along this journey, as close horse friends and I can't wait for other events we meet each other at and I would definitely do the fair again next year!" ~ Taylor Schmidt

Thank you to everyone involved in this endeavor. Riders and Horses: Kris Blacklock and Gambler’s Jackpot, Kara Amero and Rook, Charlotte Laval and DeMayo, Tanya Schickowski and Learning to Fly, Cathy Wunderlich and Benjamin James, Cari Schmidt and Our Holy Venture, Taylor Schmidt and Sunny D’Lite, Becky Wachniak and Starr; and myself with Leaguer’s Charlie. Grounds Crew: Angel Schoeder, Meg Wise, Nick Lindquist, Dale Blacklock, Dawn Marie Hamby, John Treuthardt, Sharon Curtis, Bridgit Larson, Diane King, Henry Newcomb, Susie Poe, Sarah Pang, Tracy Pulcer, Annie Yunk, Jill Dittle, Jeff Dittle, Destiny Szczesniak, Joe Szczesniak, Krisy Szczesniak and Thibaut Dahay./p>

Also a special thank you to: Kris Blacklock, Cari Schmidt, Taylor Schmidt and Vicki Hodel for creating the application video, Haley Madden for writing our script; Taylor Schmidt for creating our music (our hearts will forever skip a beat when we hear Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’); Mary Hanneman, Heather McManamy and Pam Doolittle for helping out by donating time at the hospitality booth; Sharon Curtis for her home hospitality for our planning session, horses and ground crew students; Kris & Dale Blacklock for donating their indoor for the dressage walk thru; Insight FS of Wautoma for donating shavings; Pierce’s Grocery of Portage for donation of food; The Horse First Farm, Brooklyn WI and Triple Cross Equestrian Center, Montello WI for the use of their facilities for rider/horse practice; Tanya Schickowski for the use of her TheraPlate; Meg Wise for Massage Therapy; Stephanie Histed for MagnaWave treatments; the State Board of WDCTA for helping fund this adventure; and to all the husbands, wives, significant others, friends and family that helped out and put up with our crazy requests./p>

I know I am probably forgetting someone. From all of us, we’d like to pause and thank YOU for making this a memorable experience./p>