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The Illinois Horse Fair Celebrates 25th Anniversary with Multi-faceted East Meets West Event

Springfield, IL - The Horsemen's Council of Illinois celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Illinois Horse Fair March 7-9th along with more than 10,000 attendees!  Spectators enjoyed clinics and demonstrations by Chris Cox, Yvonne Barteau, Terry Myers, Liz Graves, Scott McKinsey, Susan White, Steve Kutie, Jennifer Kotylo, Tim Boyer, Nikki Klein, Patrick Keane and many others as well as Breed/Sport Demonstrations, Stallion presentations, and HorsesForSale. 


A first at the Illinois Horse Fair, Lyle East showed his world-class stock dogs working cattle immediately following the Scott McKinsey cutting horse demonstrations giving spectators the opportunity to see the intricacies of each sport.  The weekend also included popular demonstrations by Land of Lincoln Farriers Association, University of Illinois Vet School, Midwest Horseshoeing School, Mid-Rivers Equine Centre and a highly diverse speaker program on nearly every equine topic from holistic horse keeping, to marketing using social media, to nutrition and beyond.


For the second year many vendors were housed in the historic Exposition Building while many new vendors were added in the heated barns at the Livestock Center.  A new tram service was enjoyed by many spectators to move around the expanded site.  Additional heating was also added to improve the comfort of our spectators and exhibitors.  Several vendors have reported that this was their "best year ever!" at the event. 


The Illinois Horse Fair is proud to have Purina Equine Feed, Midway Trailer Sales, Illinois Farm Bureau, Kubota USA, and Green Dodge/Ram Trucks as presenting sponsors and Barrington Saddlery, Steak 'n Shake, and Ariat as evening show sponsors.  Produced by the Horsemen's Council of Illinois with a largely volunteer workforce, the success of the Illinois Horse Fair allows HCI to advocate for equine related activities in Springfield and throughout the state for all horsemen regardless of breed or discipline.


Jud Carter Wins Heartland Horseman's Challenge


The 2014 event also featured the first Heartland Horseman's Challenge where Illinois based horsemen Jud Carter, Gigi Iacovelli, Jason Forby, and Laurie Treber spent the weekend working with a rescue horse, culminating in a freestyle ride and challenge course.  At the end of the weekend, Jud Carter was named the winner of the competition and received a beautiful Dale Chavez belt buckle.  But, according to one spectator, there were only winners in this competition as all four horsemen showed great skill, patience and fortitude with their chosen horse, and all four horses made great progress.  The rescue horses came from the Hooved Animal Humane Society (HAHS) of Woodstock Illinois and were varying ages, breeds, and backgrounds making this quite different from typical colt-starting competitions. The Heartland Horseman's Challenge was sponsored by The State House Inn, West Meadow Ranch, and Tractor Supply.


Queen and Princess Crowned


The popular Queen and Princess Pageant drew an increasing number of participants for 2014 at 16 entries. Crowned as Queen was Kaylyn Hall of Monmouth IL along with Princess Olivia Reed of Waterloo IL.  In true Horse Fair style the candidates and their horses represented 9 different breeds of horse and 11 different riding disciplines.  The contest utilizes public speaking, horsemanship, and interviewing skills to determine who will be the Illinois Horse Fair Queen and Princess.


All-Youth Judging Trial Draws over 250 contestants


The always popular All-Youth Judging Trial saw a surge in contestant numbers in 2014 bringing with them a huge number of coaches, family members and spectators.  Senior division team winners were the Madison Co Hooves Paws & Claws which also boasted the Senior Individual winner Katie Zelechowski.  Junior team division winner was Mercer County 4-H and individual winner was Helen Ehert from the Henry Co Rough Riders.  Presented by the Horsemen's Council of Illinois in conjunction with the University of Illinois, hosting a judging competition as a part of the Illinois Horse Fair gives the participants the opportunity to judge a variety of breeds that they would not see at another venue.


Dates for the 2015 event have been set for March 6-8th at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield. For 2015 exhibitor information or to find out how to volunteer at the Illinois Horse Fair, contact Karen Freese, Manager, at (217) 677-2267 or


Photos courtesy of





Chris Cox colt-starting at 2014 Illinois Horse Fair

Lyle East demonstrates working cattle dogs
Jud Carter wins inaugural Heartland Horseman's Challenge.
Illinois Horse Fair Princess Olivia Reed and Queen Kaylyn Hall

The Illinois Horse Fair, produced by the Horsemen's Council of Illinois, is the state's largest all-breed equine exposition and is held annually in March at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield.