People of all ages gathered in Sutherland Arena to show horses of different colors and sizes.
But this isn’t your conventional horse exposition. This weekend at the Georgia National Fairgrounds, animals with maybe a little less horse power — miniature horses with big talent — will be on display as the Peach State Miniature Horse Club hosts the American Miniature Horse Registry’s Area III National Miniature Horse Show.
The threeday competition that began Friday requires youths and adults to direct their miniature horses to perform various tasks, including jumping over barricades, pulling various types of carts and parading around the arena.
“This is a really awesome pastime, hobby,” said Lorrie Shipman, the horse club’s president. “We love sharing ... what our miniature horses can do.”
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Shipman said miniature horse shows often are sponsored by a club that hires a show staff and develops a horse class list and schedule. Typically, the show will last up to two days, but this particular event is a day longer because it is an area show, she said.
"We have about 400 different classes that we offer that people can choose to go into,” Shipman said. “They pay to show, and then they enter and win the ribbons.”
In miniature horse shows, there is a point system, and depending on how a horse places during judging, its owner accumulates points, she said. If a miniature horse wins first place, its owner gets two points. Second place gets one point. An owner can earn a hall of fame title by earning 70 points. The more horses that are in a class, the more points that are available for an owner to attain.
Unless a miniature horse event is timed, the judging process is subjective, said Ricky Wardlaw, a miniature horse show judge. A horse's placement in competition is solely based on what the judges like about the horse.
The horses require specific care at home, and preparation for a show can take up to several days. A number of variables go into show preparation, such as maintaining the proper equipment, grooming, and keeping the horses’ thick hair clipped back for judging purposes.
"It's a lot of hard work, so it's not all fun and games," said Beth Booker, a miniature horse show competitor from Mississippi.
Booker traveled eight hours to attend this weekend’s show. Her horses have competed in shows for 11 years, and she travels at least eight or nine hours each time they compete.
"You have to travel if you want to show these guys,” she said.
Miniature horses are worth the amount of work it takes to maintain them, Booker said. Owning the horses has given her opportunities to visit new places and meet new people.
Shipman said she feels close to her miniature horses and that caring for them every day gives her the chance to bond with them.
"They're like my family,” she said. “We visit them almost every day of the week at least.”
Both Booker and Shipman said they’re grateful for their horses and hope their children and grandchildren will follow in their footsteps and show off some miniature horses of their own.
Thais Ackerman: 478-744-4489, @ThaisAckerman