After the horse-flu epidemic had equestrian communities on their knees last year, the Coonabarabran Horse Expo is back with a bang.

Story By Nick Cook

The afternoon sky is dark grey, heavy with the imminent threat of rain. About 450 teenagers on horseback are called into the ring for the final time and it is obvious, even from a distance, that their horses are immaculately turned-out. Their coats are gleaming, their manes and tails plaited. This is the grand parade of the Coonabarabran Horse Expo and it is the last time for this year that horse and rider will have the chance to appear on centre stage.
The parade is always a spectacle but this year it holds special significance. There is a thrill in seeing so many horses in one place. It is less than 12 months after the fear and uncertainty of equine influenza (EI) and many attendees had admitted to feeling some degree of trepidation as the event approached, concerned that another lockdown would leave them trapped at the showground in events not unlike August last year.
Horse expo committee chairman Kevin Sharp, the principal of Coonabarabran High School, says numbers were slightly down this year but not to any great extent. “To be honest, I thought it would have an impact on the event but it really hasn’t,” he says. “There are a lot of tight controls in place now such as making sure all the travelling horse statements are correct. But in terms of the numbers I think the state of the economy has had more of an effect than the horse flu.”
Now in its 18th year, the Coonabarabran Horse Expo is one of the largest events of its kind in Australia. Young people from across New South Wales, as well as many from interstate regions, come together to take part in all manner of equestrian disciplines from dressage, showjumping and cross-country through to polocrosse, barrel racing, working horse challenge and hacking.

This story excerpt is from Issue #61

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2008