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‘The Ferraris of Horses’

Jun. 2—MOSES LAKE—There’s just something about a horse.

Whether it’s training them, riding them, or simply watching others ride them, that’s something that nearly everyone associated with the Inland Empire Arabian Horse Club at the Grant County Fairgrounds Ardell Pavilion can agree upon.

“Everyone loves working with horses,” said club vice president Kim Rasmussen. “There’s a bond that you get between the riders, the owners, the trainers.”

Pausing to search for the right words, she finally accessed the point.

“It’s just something you can’t explain,” Kim said.

The club held its 53rd annual Memorial Day Classic horse show and fundraiser in Moses Lake last weekend, giving riders and horse owners from across the Pacific Northwest a chance to show off their riding skills — what that bond between rider and horse actually means — in everything from English country riding gear, cowboy accouterments or a romanticized take on traditional Arab clothing.

The four-day event, which began May 26, is the club’s major annual show, and according to Kim, they moved the event to Moses Lake to take advantage of the equestrian facility at the Grant County Fairgrounds. Kim said the club has also raised more than $150,000 for Shriners Hospitals over the years.

“You guys have a fabulous facility here in Moses Lake,” she said. “They’ve done a lot of improvements at the fairgrounds here.”

In one of the barns near the pavilion, Carol Rasmussren is dressed head to toe in a shimmering red abaya with a gauzy veil that allows her to see. She’s ridden and competed for years but she had never dressed up in garb to perform before last weekend’s event.

“It’s designed after what they wear in the desert, but it’s a lot fancier,” said Carol as she stands next to Snickers — registered name Candyman’s Heir — a large brown Arabian horse. “I’ve always wanted to (dress up), and I’ve never done it. I thought I’d try.”

Her husband Pete, a club board member and long-time horse trainer, looks Snickers over to ensure the two are ready to show. He said he especially likes the challenge of working with young horses, honoring their talents and helping form animals and riders capable of showing well and winning ribbons and awards.

Originally bred by the nomads and town dwellers of the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabian horse is known for its stamina and the ease it bonds with and works with riders and trainers, according to ArabianHorses.org. In the ring, riders are asked to show their ability to command their horses, as an announcer calls out commands — “Trot. Canter. Lope. Halt. Move back four paces.”

Some riders manage easily, and some struggle with their animals.

It’s all about the training, about the time and the effort put in to make it possible for animals and riders to work together, Pete said.

“It’s a physical job, you know, because you’re working with a 1,000-pound-plus animal, and if they’re having a bad day, you’re having a bad day,” Pete said. “It’s a challenge.”

Dennis Wigren, a trainer with RO Lervick Arabians in Stanwood, north of Seattle, said training horses involves a lot of patient repetition and constant work. He’s showing a junior horse — a younger animal, five years old or less, with less experience.

“A lot of time goes into each of these horses,” Wigren said. “This horse that I’m showing tonight in the junior horse (category) I’ve been riding for two years. And schooling her four or five days a week. So, lots of time.”

Wigren said RO Lervick has brought nine horses to the show in Moses Lake. Wigren himself placed first in the supreme halter competition for purebred Arabian horses, a competition that involved him leading the horse rather than riding it.

“I enjoy the competition,” he said.

Carol, whose day job involves designing computer chips for a living, said she enjoys the physical aspect of riding and that bond forms between rider and horse.

“They’re the Ferraris of horses,” she said of the Arabian breed. “Big motors, big movers. And here you are, telling them with the touch of a leg, the move of a finger, to do whatever you want.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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