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Horse Expo raising funds for rescue efforts

One of the neglected horses cared for by the Hawaii Island Humane Society. (Photo courtesy of Hawaii Island Humane Society)

One of the neglected horses cared for by the Hawaii Island Humane Society. (Photo courtesy of Hawaii Island Humane Society)

Karin Stanton/Hawaii247 Contributing Editor

Horse Expo 2009 again brings an all-star line up of equine experts to the Big Island for a weekend of educational events, while also serving as a benefit for the island’s horse rescue fund.

In its second year, the expo – brainchild of Nancy Jones – seeks to raise funds for the Hawaii Island Humane Society, which is tasked with caring for abandoned, neglected and abused horses.

The same horse after being cared for by the Hawaii Island Humane Society. (Photo courtesy of Hawaii Island Humane Society)

The same horse after being cared for by the Hawaii Island Humane Society. (Photo courtesy of Hawaii Island Humane Society)

While many of the island’s residents regard the HIHS as the place to adopt (or dump) cats and dogs, dozens of horses each year are taken in by HIHS and, hopefully, adopted out to loving families.

The expo is one way to help educate horse owners, while adding money to the rescue fund.

Jones, owner of the Circle J Horse Sanctuary and one of Horse Expo’s founders, said this year’s event will be bigger and offer more for horse lovers and even those not so horse-y.

“We have some absolutely incredible vendors for the general store,” she said. “All the vendors will be donating 20 percent of their sales to the horse rescue fund, so come on in and shop.”

The panel of experts is on tap for two days of lectures, demonstrations and exhibitions in Waimea, plus an afternoon of presentations in Kona.

“We have a good balance between indoor lectures and presentations and outdoor demonstrations,” Jones said. “These are world-class cowboys and we’re lucky to have them.”

One highlight will be the chance to meet Tim Flach, who has donated four photographs to the silent auction.

Flach, one of the world’s most celebrated animal photographers, will talk about the differences in the horses he photographed for his book “Equus,” how location shapes our response to the species today, and the various cultures that have evolved around horses. 

“Tim is a brilliant guy, a top photographer and just so interesting to listen to,” Jones said.

Horse rescue fund

“We’re seeing more cases of starving horses,” Jones said. “People are not ill-intentioned, but you have to realize horses are highly intelligent, sensitive creatures.”

Typically, someone notices a wandering horse or one that seems abandoned in a field, calls HIHS and the animal is captured and transferred to the Waimea shelter, which has room for only a few horses at a time.

HIHS executive director Donna Whitaker said it is often not intentional.

“We see more in the way of wandering horses, even neglected, but not so many injuries (from abuse),” she said. “Unfortunately, we are seeing the bad signs of the economy.”

For example, she said, feeding and boarding are becoming more expensive, which may prompt owners to turn their horses out to pasture land and check on them every few days or once a week.

This presents more of an opportunity for horses to get loose, lost, injured or worse. One horse got into a bag of fertilizer, which proved lethal, and another closed down Palani Road while authorities re-captured it.

“It really is just the circumstances,” she said. 

The HIHS is averaging one call a month, although many calls include more than one horse in trouble.

The vet

Brady Bergin, a second generation Big Island veterinarian specializing in horses, sees the need not just for the horse rescue fund, but also the expo.

“This is an incredible opportunity for horse owners,” he said. “We’re kind of in our own little world way out here in the  Pacific, so to have these guys here is amazing.”

He urged horse owners to take advantage of the expertise offered at the expo.

“There is lots of good horse country on the Big Island,” Bergin said. “We’re very fortunate here that we don’t have those treacherous winters. We can enjoy our horses 365 days a year.”

Bergin, son of legendary Big Island horse and cattle veterinarian Dr. Billy Bergin, said most owners understand the commitment it takes to care for a horse.

“Horses are not cute little cat-and-dog family pets that could be easy to give up in hard economic times,” he said. “For the majority of owners their horses come first, before their vehicles even. They are in 100 percent.”

If anything, he said, some owners have to forgo preventative medicine – turning them out to pasture instead of regular feeding or not replacing shoes.

“That’s unfortunate. It’s not spending the pennies in prevention now, which might mean spending the dollars later on treatment,” Bergin said. “People are having to make choices, but right now I’m not seeing that the horses are really suffering for it.”

However, Bergin said, there are horses in need and HIHS can use all the help it can get.

“I see what they work with and it’s a real challenge,” he said. “The horse rescue fund is crucial, it’s desperately needed.”

Among Bergin’s top priorities is a larger space, specifically equipped for horses.

“HIHS really needs an appropriate space to house these guys,” he said, noting he has taken in some foster horses.

“I really feel for the old guys. They just need somebody loving on them a little bit,” he said. “And they appreciate the TLC. You should see them come around after a little extra care. That’s a great reward.”

The Hawaii Island Humane Society accepts donations – cash, food and supplies – at all its shelters year round.

Expo presenters

* Rick Lamb, host of RFD TV’s The Horse Show, will once again be moderating this year’s program. He also will talk on “Finding Flicka: Choosing a horse that is right for you.”

* Dr. Robert Miller is back by popular demand. Noted equine behaviorist, author, and world wide lecturer, Miller will present a series of informative talks including “Desensitization and sensitization,” a lecture with videos, clarifying the confusion and myths surrounding these training techniques.

In “Safer Horsemanship,” Miller will show us how to be safe with our horses. His techniques, now widely incorporated in Vet Schools, are based upon a lifetime of working with equine patients, some quite difficult.

In “Are Bits Necessary?” Miller will help us to understand the information and misinformation about this ancient tool.

* Dale Myler returns to further educate us about the art of bitting. Myler will be working with several horses and describing the progress each horse makes in its training using the right bit. 

Myler will also be revealing new ground breaking research connecting the horses’s mouth and tongue pressure to the horse’s overall state of health and learning ability.

* Jack Brainard will be a featured clinician at this year’s event.

Master of the flying lead change, Brainard has been working with horses for over 50 years. He has won World Titles in a variety of disciplines including reining, cutting, roping, and pleasure riding. 

He is a longtime horse show judge and veteran “Road to the Horse” judge. 

At 85, Brainard still trains his own 2 year olds.  Brainard will be teaching and demonstrating advanced horsemanship based on cowboy dressage.

* Renowned animal photographer Tim Flach will share some of his incredible photographs and adventures with us.

Before turning his attention to animals, Flach spent 20 years as a highly successful advertising photographer. His awards are too numerous to mention, and articles on Flach’s work regularly appear in professional photography journals. Flach’s photographs have appeared in many international magazines, including National Geographic Magazine

EQUUS, Flach’s latest book, took seven years to complete. During that time he traveled around the world documenting horses in such places as Iceland, Dubai, Mongolia, Africa and The American Southwest. In EQUUS, Flach documents and explores our relationship to horses, a relationship that goes back tens of thousands of years.  

Tickets at the door ($25 for Friday, $35 for Saturday and for Sunday); in advance at HIHS shelters and the Parker Ranch Store ($15 for Friday, $25 for Saturday or for Sunday)

— Find out more:

www.HawaiiHorseExpo.com

The schedule

HorseExpoSchedule

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