By Jennie Acklin

Gail Pearles was born with a love of horses, like so many young girls. The only difference is that she hasn’t outgrown it. In fact, she’s getting more and more immersed in the human/horse connection each year.

Pearles and her husband Bernie (both of the Blue Mule Band fame) live on a farm in Cattaraugus, which they share with several horses and a few other barn companion animals. She is a member of the WNY Horse Council and gives riding lessons at her farm, or your stable, and teaches clinics around the region.

Last year, Pearles was invited by the WNY Horse Council to give a demonstration at their third annual WNY EquiFest 2014, held at The Fairgrounds in Hamburg, N.Y.

EquiFest is a one-day event that covers just about everything horse related. This year’s event, on March 16, 2014, will include many local vendors and riders giving clinics on various topics.

Everything from body clipping, colt starting, cowboy mounted shooting, dressage, equine massage, lower limb anatomy and hoof function, polo, and reining will be covered. Youth/interscholastic equestrian competitions will also be presented, along with many more topics. There is no charge to attend the event, held at the Showplex on the Hamburg Fairgrounds from 9 a.m.– 5 p.m.

Pearles was invited back to EquiFest this year and will be giving a 50-minute talk on lateral flexion. For those who don’t ride horses, think of it as a type of aerobic/yoga/stretching exercise that you might do before going for a walk, run, bicycle ride or a run down Mardi Gras or Yodeler.

Pearles believes that learning to communicate with an equine partner “is a philosophy — not a quick judgment — and a learning process.”

Having attended many clinics by some of the top horse people in the country, she feels she is on the path to learning.

“Embrace the knowledge and share what you know,” are just some of her favorite “isms” from her mentors.

“John Lyons, Pat Parelli, Leslie Desmond, Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt and Buck Brannaman all ‘encourage the learning path — to be informed,‘” said Pearles.

Her hope is to convey a captivating and interesting 50 minutes at EquiFest with her horse, Thunder, an 11-year-old Percheron/Thoroughbred cross.

The WNY EquiFest is an event of the NYS Horse Council, Western Chapter. Over 100 vendors are scheduled for the March 16 event, including everything “from trailers and trucks, to fine handmade chocolates, equine wear by The Harness Shop, Creekside Saddlery, Statecoach West, LaScala Originals, and So Vain Clothing.”

According to Barb Cunningham, one of the three founders of EquiFest, “People come from all over to attend this event, and it is growing every year. Last years’ attendance was over 5,000 people, and we expect more this year. We are even considering going to a two-day event in the future.”

Cunningham said, “We have the Family Fun Corral again this year, for the younger audience to make stick horses, get their faces painted, and many other fun events.”

Cunningham credits her co-founders Debbie Huckle and Mary Szarek, along with other members of the Horse Council board, for the success of EquiFest.

For more information, check back often with the Ellicottville Times for updated articles, or follow the NYS Horse Council’s Facebook page (Western-Chapter-New-York-State-Horse-Council).