In the stalls and aisles of the paddock, trainers and owners smoothed out saddle blankets and tightened cinches preparing to take part in the final sessions of the Pre Denver Quarter Horse Show at the National Western Stock Show Events Center.
"I have been coming to this show for a lot of years," Douglas County trainer Devin Warren said of the show that precedes the National Western. "I come here to show horses and also to coach and train non-professional horse owners so they can show their horses."
Warren is well known in horse circles as the trainer of world champions. At the Jan. 9 event, he rode a quarter horse around the exercise ring before turning the animal over to its owner Gina Ratcliff. But first he adjusted the stirrups to fit the new rider and did some last-minute coaching before horse and rider moved out into the ring.
"This is just one of about 80 horses we have here for the show," the owner of Warren Performance Horses on Highway 83 said. "We have an excellent team that trains horses and who are available to coach the owners on show techniques. I guess training the horse and coaching the owner really go together as the result of how well we did comes when we see how much better horse and rider are in the show ring."
Warren grew up in Woodland Park and around horses and participated in 4H to learn more about livestock, particularly horses.
"Of course, we work with a variety of breeds," he said. "For example, we have horses here for the quarter horse show and, when it ends, we'll move them out and be here with paint horses when the National Western Stock Show gets into full swing."
Warren and his horses were in the National Western Stock Show Events Center area. The area includes the ring the public sees and behind that area is the extensive barn and paddock area.
The aisles are lined with horse stalls. Some owners have just a single stall, while others like Warren need a group of adjacent stalls, making for a temporary home for their horses.
Just a short distance from Warren's stalls were a group of eight stalls occupied by Franktown's Mcdowall Quarter Horse. Kiwi, a horse owned by Renee Howes of Arizona was one of those trained by Mcdowall.
"I came down today to take my horse Kiwi for a walk to give him a little exercise since most of the trainers are off today and we aren't showing today," Howes said. "The people at Mcdowall coached me and I entered Kiwi in several judging events. We did pretty well, which earns us points to help us qualify for the national show that will be held later this year in Amarillo, Texas."
As the quarter horse show wraps up, the animals will move out of the stalls to make room for the other horse breeds coming in for shows, sales and special events during the National Western Stock Show that officially opened two days later on Jan. 11.
The National Western is called the Super Bowl of Livestock Shows and runs through Jan. 26. During the 16-day run there are judging competitions and sales for horses, cattle, sheep, swine, goats, llamas, bison, yaks poultry and rabbits. Since space is fairly limited, animals are constantly moving in and out of the complex so that more than 15,000 head of livestock can take part in the judging competitions and sales.
The National Western Stock Show's daily schedule includes a variety of livestock event but there are also listing for other activities including rodeos and entertainment. The National Western also is Colorado's largest trade show with hundreds of vendors displaying their merchandise. The variety of events and activities attract spectators and last year, more than 628,000 people went through the turnstiles.
For a schedule and other information on the event, go to www.nationalwestern.com.