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Minnesota State Fair expands horse show

Darin Brooks and Amanda Gehri unload a Clydesdale draft horse in front of the horse barn on the Minnesota State fairgrounds on Wednesday, August 22, 2018. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press1 / 2
Tyler Goldsmith talks to his dad on his phone and asks him when the camper (which he will sleep in) is coming as he washes his family's Belgian draft horses in the horse barn on the Minnesota State fairgrounds on Wednesday, August 22, 2018. Jean Pieri / St. Paul Pioneer Press2 / 2

ST. PAUL — More big horses. More little horses. This year's Minnesota State Fair is shaping up to be a hit for horse enthusiasts.

The Minnesota State Fair Horse Show has expanded its schedule, featuring four days of draft and miniature horse competitions at the historic Lee and Rose Warner Coliseum. Draft horse hitch, barrel racing and showmanship contests and miniature horse driving competitions are on tap for the show, which runs through Monday.

Yes, you read that right. Barrel racing with massive draft horses.

About 60 more horses will be able to compete in this year's show because of the event's growth. Fair employees had to build temporary stalls to hold the additional horses.

Samantha Gilbertson, the Fair's competition supervisor, said the expanded schedule will allow for breed-specific contests. In past years, she said, different types of horses competed in the same class because there wasn't enough room.

"I think (it) is going to be amazing for the crowd to see, and it's really nice for the exhibitors to compete against similar horses. That's how a lot of the shows are run across the country," she said.

The Minnesota State Fair's horse show is known nationally for its coliseum and large crowds, Gilbertson said. Some other State Fair horse shows either don't occur during the Fair or lack a variety of breeds.

The Minnesota State Fair is also popular among exhibitors because of the rapport staff members have built with the equestrian community, said Mark Goodrich, the Fair's deputy general manager of competition and agriculture. Many horse show employees are heavily involved in the equestrian community, he said, and frequently attend regional and national shows.

"(Exhibitors are) happy to support our Fair, I think, because of those relationships," Goodrich said. "I think all of that comes back to making a really good event."

Showing horses can be an expensive hobby, depending on the level of competition. So, Goodrich said, the Minnesota State Fair's horse show tries to keep its entry and stall fees low to encourage participation from exhibitors of all backgrounds.

Exhibitors from across the U.S. and even Canada come to the Minnesota State Fair to show their horses, Gilbertson said, with some aiming to earn points for the competition show circuit.

"The Fair is a great way to be able to show in front of a bunch of people, get your breed out there, get your type of showing seen by the masses and get people interested," Gilbertson said.

The show is free with Fair admission, allowing fairgoers to step away from their favorite food vendors to watch mini horses, draft horses and even Clydesdales perform in the exhibition ring.

For more information about this year's horse show, go to mnstatefair.org.

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