Just wild about horses

Expo: A love for all things equine leads thousands to the seventh annual Horse World Expo in Timonium.

January 19, 2003|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Wanting to be with thousands of others who are what she calls "horse crazy," Joy Mahler drove nearly five hours yesterday from her home in southern Virginia to the seventh annual Maryland Horse World Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

"This is a very serious disease that you can't get over," said Mahler, owner of six horses ages 4 to 22 years. "And, this is the only place you can come where everybody is as crazy as you are, where nobody laughs when you say `how beautiful' while looking at a horse's face."

Mahler is certain the condition is genetic. Her 4-year-old granddaughter has fallen for a pony named Domino and has her parents building a stable. In her four trips to the expo, Mahler has not brought along a horse, but she hopes to take her 5-year-old stallion to an expo clinic next year.

The four-day event gives thousands a chance to ogle horses, learn the latest in equine care and shop for trailers, saddles, vitamins, minerals and herbal treatments for common horse ailments such as brittle hooves, nagging coughs and runny noses.

"My horse is my soulmate," said Cheryl Volkmar of Elmer, N.J. "My Sonny has to have everything that is top of the line, and I go to every expo to make sure of it. I am a shopaholic when it comes to horses."

Those who didn't arrive in a Stetson, fringed suede jacket and snazzy cowboy boots could easily find such attire among nearly 400 vendors spread across three buildings. For those not ready for the real thing, $10 would buy a battery-operated racehorse.

"There are a lot of different exhibits, good speakers and great educational speakers," said Cheryl Ay of Jarrettsville.

In the main arena, standing-room-only crowds watched a lively game of kid-friendly, slow-paced polocrosse - a blend of polo and lacrosse - a show of bridleless riding and the parade of breeds.

"I come to look and listen to lectures so I can learn," said Volkmar. "I have my overnight bags in case I miss anything today. My husband is at home taking care of the horses."

Debbie Horsey of Baltimore said she finds the expo exhibits inspiring and the audiences exhilarating.

"I love seeing these magnificent horses and all the people who love them," she said. "It is like one big party."

Just give Horsey an opening, and she will whip out pictures of her Diamond, a Friesian walker cross. She decided to buy a horse and learn to ride when she turned 40. She found a good trainer and now rides on Diamond at least once a week.

For those considering a major purchase, one expo vendor was taking applications for various financing options.

"Our horse is named Something Special, but he really is Second Mortgage," said Trudy Pastine wearing a sweat shirt imprinted with the word groom.

Pastine gave her daughter a pony ride when she was 4. Twelve years later, daughter Patty Boldt is showing her own horse several times a month and taking mom along to groom him. Patty hopes to study equine business management in college and had appointments with recruiters at the expo.

"Giving her a horse was the best choice I ever made," said Pastine. "It has given her direction and responsibility."

Fiscal responsibility goes out the barn door, though, as soon as the horse trots in, Pastine said with a laugh. Horses are big business in Maryland, where 87,000 animals were counted in last year's equine census. Statewide, horses are a $1.6 billion-a-year industry.

"I only have one kid," said Pastine's friend Kathy Domino of Lothian. "That's all you can afford if you have a horse."

Katie Domino has been riding for six of her 13 years. She got her horse, Impressive Starman, two years ago. Since then, her parents have bought a house with more acreage, a sport utility vehicle to haul a horse trailer and they are building a barn. Katie was shopping yesterday for blankets, boots and muzzles.

"I don't have a life," said Kathy Domino. "My daughter has a horse."

Lynne Robison and Ruth Porter, neighbors and horse owners from Gap, Pa., had just attended a seminar that dealt with keeping horses on small acreage.

"The expo is really helpful if you are looking for ideas," said Robison.

Porter has been riding for 10 years and bought her own horse three years ago. "A horse is every little girl's dream," Porter said. "They last, too. I have two ex-husbands and one great horse."

The expo continues from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, York and Timonium roads. Information: 410-668-2800.

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