By KELSY LORIN TAYLOR
Web Editor and Feature Writer
GIVING BACK: The AMHR National Championships held an essay contest open to those who had a passion for miniature horses. In between classes, one very special winner of the contest, Mackenzie Schulte, received a miniature horse of her very own.
KELSY LORIN TAYLOR for GTR Newspapers
The American Miniature Horse Registry National Championship was held at Expo Square from Sept. 10 through Sept. 19. Once again, the smallest equine competitors demonstrated their mighty determination and spirit as they competed for top titles.
The top horses earned a place of honor among the miniature horse breed. These horses competed against others from around the nation and even the world.
This year, 1,500 horses competed in 380 classes over a span of 10 days. “In the last several years, we have averaged 6,000 to 7,000 entries through the gate. That is quite a feat,” exclaims Show Manager Leonard Davenport.
The National Championship is the third largest equine event held in the United States. Davenport is very proud of this and has loved every minute since becoming involved in the organization.
Davenport became captivated with horses while growing up in northeastern Oklahoma. “My family lived on a farm and couldn’t have horses because we had cattle. My mother got me a little rocking horse for Christmas one year and put me on it. It scared me to death!”
Today, Davenport manages 20 events across the United States including those that involve American Saddlebreds, Morgans and Arabians. Davenport especially enjoys working with miniature horses. “I have a real passion for them.”
Throughout the 10 days of competition, there was something for all experience levels including youth, amateur and open divisions. “The miniature horse showed in halter, driving performance, jumper and hunter classes,” adds Davenport. The jumps in the classes are scaled down to size for the horses that range from only 24 to 38 inches tall.
One particular class is a lot of fun for both competitors and spectators. “There is a costume class, which is just hilarious. It’s amazing how much these little horses will tolerate,” laughs Davenport.
Through the years, the National Championships have changed and adapted. “When I first began managing the show, we had 300 horses entered in the classes. Today, the show has grown by leaps and bounds.”
Davenport has also noticed a change in the breed itself over the years. “Just like larger horses, there are refinements of the crossings of breeds and within the bloodlines over time.”
Davenport explains that this was the fifth year that the National Championships have been held at Expo Square. “I can’t say enough nice things about Expo Square. The staff has been so accommodating. The Oklahoma Department of Tourism has been very gracious through a donation again this year towards our show.”
Expo Square has been busy this year hosting all of the horse shows that have been held in Tulsa. Many of the shows have been national events and the facility has been filled with horses throughout the shows.
Miniature horses have the unique quality of being gently, big-hearted and not to mention small. “A lot of people who have been intimidated by larger horses are not as intimidated with miniature horses,” notes Davenport. Their small stature has helped a number of competitors enter the arena with confidence. “We offer Physically and Mentally Challenged classes during the competition. We want everyone to have the experience of showing horses.”
Davenport ensures that there are classes throughout the competition for all ages to enjoy. “There are Golden Age Driving classes, which are always wonderful. You have never seen so much fufu in your life in some of these classes.”
There are a few unique classes that are featured during the event. The Liberty class allows horses to be turned out in the arena and run free, providing a fantastic opportunity to witness the large spirit within the little horses. “There are also Draft Type classes that are very popular to watch,” adds Davenport.
There are wide ranges of competitors in the championship. Some of the horses are from families who enjoy the breed and compete solely as a hobby. Other horses are professionally trained and conditioned for competitions and the family actually has their own corporation.
An array of little hooves clip clopped throughout the barns during the event. With such a variety of horses, the event provided a look into just how diverse this breed really is. One noticeable quality of the miniature horses is their brilliant colorations and patterns including Palomino, Appaloosa, Bay and Leopard.
A variety of vendors created a great shopping experience for both competitors and visitors throughout the event. Around every corner, vendors offered halters, lead lines, and everything that a miniature horse owner could possibly hope to find. Western items also filled the area along with unique equestrian gifts for the horse enthusiast.