Among the most traditional of the events at any fair are the equestrian events.
County and state fairs became frequent in the United States in the mid-1800s, and were mostly created by agricultural reformers to showcase innovations in agriculture. By the 1870s, horse racing, trotting and pacing competitions were among the most popular events at the fairs.
At the Evergreen State Fair, equestrian events happen daily, but for people without much experience with horses, it can be hard to know what to expect or how to enjoy all of the events.
Here is a guide to some of the most popular of the breed-specific equestrian events at the fair.
Western Regional Clydesdale Show
When: Thursday, Aug. 21, Friday, Aug. 22 and Saturday, Aug. 23 at 6 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 24 at 2 p.m.
Where: Arena #100
Clydesdale horses are, in a word, big.
They are named for the region of Scotland from which the breed originated in 1826. In the next century, thousands of Clydesdales were exported all over the world and used as workhorses, hauling cargo in building sites and mines, and are called “the breed that built Australia.”
But by the 1970s, after need for draft horses fell, it was feared the breed might go extinct, and to this day, they are considered vulnerable.
Over the decades, the breed has gotten bigger and bigger. Today’s Clydesdales reach 2,200 pounds, about twice the weight of the average horse. In spite of their massive size, they are a high-energy breed. Many people are familiar with the breed from Budweiser commercials.
The Western Regional Clydesdale Show at the Evergreen State Fair is the largest Clydesdale show in the western United States. At Clydesdale shows, competitors hitch teams of the enormous horses in various combinations to various types of vehicles such as carts and wagons, and also show the animals themselves, with decoratively braided manes and tails.
Draft Horse & Mule Extravaganza
When: Monday, Aug. 25, Tuesday, Aug. 26 and Wednesday, Aug. 27 at 5 p.m.
Where: Arena #100
The Washington Horse & Mule Extravaganza includes the giant Clydesdales, which are among the best-known of draft horse breeds, but also includes other animals used for pulling cargo in the pre-industrial era.
“The draft horse and the draft mule have played a vital part in our history,” explains the Washington Horse & Mule Association. “They worked the fields, moved families across the country, were used for logging and in the mines hauling out ore and minerals.”
But when farming and other industries became increasingly mechanized, the need for such powerful animals fell, and some of the breeds neared extinction.
Since 1971, the Evergreen State Fair has been a good place to see the historic breeds. Today, more than 200 animals come to the fair, and it’s one of the few shows anywhere in the nation to see the five major breeds of draft horse, as well as the draft mule.
At the extravaganza, watch as youth teams and amateur teams drive carts and teams of the gaily-decorated horses around the arena. And know that competitions like the one at the Evergreen State Fair are the only place owners and breeders can go to have their animals judged, which helps to improve the breeds for future years.
Mustang Yearling Showcase
When: Friday, Aug. 29, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Arena #101
Yep, these horses all used to be wild.
Mustangs are the classic horse of the American Wild West, and their name comes from a Spanish word meaning “stray horse.”
That is because mustangs are horses descended from horses brought to the New World in the 1500s by the Spanish. Some of the horses became wild, and interbred with other domesticated horses such as quarter horses and draft horses, becoming a breed of their own over the centuries.
Until the Spanish brought horses to the continent, there hadn’t been any at all since the last prehistoric horses died out about 12,000 years ago.
But as soon as there started to be a fair number of mustangs running wild, Native Americans enthusiastically took to their use and became skilled riders and equestrians.
Over time, the mustang breed became extremely well-adapted to the North American continent, with high endurance, strong legs and remarkable speed.
However, in recent years, mustangs have become a bit of a nuisance in certain places. They run wild all over the west and as they have no natural predators; the population is expected to double every four years or so without some human intervention.
That’s why the horses are captured and given or sold to adoptive homes from time to time, and that’s how young trainers like those of the Evergreen State Fair come to have them.
At the fair, see young handlers show what they have been able to train their wild horses to do.
Miniature Horse Show
When: Monday, Sept. 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from the massive draft horses are miniature horses, no more than three feet tall.
Miniature horses have been around since the 1600s in Europe, and were often royal pets. After laws were passed to prevent children from working in mines, sometimes miniature horses took their place. For many years, miniature horses were bred for work in mines, but for the last 100 years they have been bred mostly for pets.
At miniature horse shows, owners demonstrate how well their horses are trained to pace and maneuver around the arena, as well as how well they are groomed.