A variety of new and returning events will delight horse lovers of all ages who make the trip to Penn State's Ag Progress Days this year, according to organizers in the College of Agricultural Sciences.
The event's Equine Experience, August 12-14, will offer a full schedule of training and breed clinics, demonstrations, informational displays and lectures, noted Dr. Ann Macrina, senior instructor in the college's Department of Animal Science.
"Dave Rohrbach, of Bee Tree Trail, is returning this year to thrill the crowd with unusual hitch configurations," said Macrina, who coordinates the Equine Experience events. "He and his team will perform once each day, in addition to a special performance during the Wednesday Evening Extravaganza."
In addition, she said, the Bee Tree Trail team will participate in a historical demonstration, "Pulling Power from the Past," co-sponsored by the Pasto Agricultural Museum. "They will work alongside oxen to show the audience how draft animals provided work necessary for the growth of our nation."
On August 12, Cheryl Keller, of New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, will show how retired racehorses transition to new careers when their racing days are finished. Ponies also will make a splash on Tuesday as Sharon Jodon, of Jodon's Stables, demonstrates how children and ponies can make good riding partners.
Miniature horses will be back this year with an all-new performance by the Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association Youth Ambassadors. This group has performed at Horse World Expo and the Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Highlights on August 13 include a Fjord horse demonstration by Gina DiSantis of Let's Dance Dressage. "This breed is gaining in popularity, and Gina DiSantis will show that they can do more than you thought," Macrina said. "Also Wednesday, Rick Shaffer, national-level competitor and judge, will be on hand with his spectacular Paso Finos."
The Wednesday evening program will open with a Salute to America by the Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association Youth Ambassadors, followed by Suzanne Myers of Next Level Horsemanship. Myers will showcase Mustangs that are part of a 100-day challenge, in which trainers have about 100 days to "gentle" a randomly assigned wild horse while competing for prize money and awards. The evening will close with the Bee Tree Trail hitch.
On August 14, another breed making its first appearance at Ag Progress Days is the Australian cattle horse. Erin Smoyer, of the Keystone Australian Stock Horse Stud, will demonstrate this breed's unique contributions.
Other featured events will include drill-team performances and horseback racing games, and the Pennsylvania State Police Mounted Patrol will demonstrate crowd control using horses.
Penn State faculty, staff and students will also conduct handling demonstrations geared toward helping horse owners learn skills to work with their horses more safely and confidently.
In addition to the riding and training demonstrations, a series of lectures will be presented in the Equine Learning Center. Tuesday will feature pasture management, hay needs, motor vehicle laws regarding horse trailering and feed-related toxins. Wednesday's sessions will cover horseless options in 4-H, ticks and horse health, pest control, horse trailering basics, hoof problems and how a horse's digestive tract relates to its nutritional needs.
Returning this year on Thursday, August 14, is the Penn State Equine Science Horse Quiz Bowl competition. Teams of four in two age divisions (8 to 12 and 13 to 18 years old) will compete in a test of equine knowledge, and monetary prizes will be awarded. Registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Visitors can groom a horse at the Pennsylvania Equine Council's Learning Station, speak with council members and learn what issues are at the forefront of Pennsylvania's equine industry. Penn State Equine Science faculty and staff will also be available all three days at the Equine Arena and Equine Exhibits Building to answer questions and provide information.
Sponsored by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on August 12; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on August 13; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on August 14. Admission and parking are free.
For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website at http://apd.psu.edu