Despite the morning snowfall, visitors from across New England came to the Horsebarn Hill Arena for the Connecticut Horse Symposium, an event intended to increase outreach and education to horse owners, riders and enthusiasts all.
The main portion of the symposium included a versatility clinic for handlers and riders of all skill levels. The clinic helped build trust between the horses and their handlers while also challenging the abilities of riders with various obstacles. In the “extreme versatility” clinic, the arena was set up with various objects like pool noodles, balloons, bridges and even a speaker. Looped audio of barking dogs from the speaker or popping balloons at random would startle some of the horses but it would be valuable in training them to behave.
“[It’s about] desensitizing the horses and also working with your horse like remaining calm when they’re being bad, working on that. It’s a big day of horses, and horse fun,” Emma Bayuk, a sixth-semester animal science major, said.
The UConn Dressage Team and UConn Morgan Drill Team each had demonstrations following the clinics. The president and vice president of the dressage team performed from memory a series of predetermined movements. During the demonstration, the two riders accurately mirrored each other’s movements in the arena which impressed the audience and garnered a round of applause. The drill team performance was dedicated to the U.S. Armed Forces. The riders donned dazzling outfits and even the horses had glitter in their manes with a blue and white “UC” on their flanks.
During the last portion of the symposium, the arena had different stations set up for the audience to interact with horses. One station practiced chiropractics on horses with Tufts Veterinary Field Service while another had a UConn alumni and nutritionist from Purina, Amanda Morris, talking about a horse’s feed plan and body conditioning score of a horse. The final station showcased the Tanheath Hunt Club where horseback riders hunt a fake scent with hounds so that no actual animals are harmed.
In between the many programs, the animal barns were open so that visitors were able to visit the sheep, horses and cows nearby and a fire safety prevention tour was held. In the lobby, vendors had set up to sell various goods like horse-themed postcards, horse supplements and food.
“People love this. They come from all over New York and Massachusetts. Even today in the snow, there’s people who couldn’t get a spot and they’re all upset about it. There are some people who are hardcore symposium fans.” (bayok said)
Brandon Barzola is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.