SKOWHEGAN — A handful of horses and horse-lovers across the state turned out this weekend for the Autumnfest Apple Jubilee Horse Show in Skowhegan, the first time the has been held in late-June.

Typically held in the fall, the event is re-branding as a summer show to help draw bigger crowds in the future.

Between 30 and 40 exhibitors showed off anything from miniature horses to Arabian horses for a crowd of over 100 people Friday through Sunday.

In the show’s heyday about a decade ago, said its manager Ricky Drew, the event drew close to double the amount of participants and audience members from across New England. Similarly, the Downeast Horse Congress show, held annually in the middle of June, had 188 entrants nine years ago, compared to 52 in 2019. Both shows are held at the Skowhegan Fairgrounds.

“Maine horse shows don’t draw like they used to,” said Drew, who has managed shows for over 20 years.

He noted a variety of reasons for the trend. Mainly, he said, there are more horse-related organizations hosting smaller events across the state. Fewer people see the need to travel to the larger ones, especially if it means avoiding hotel fees.

“It’s not a bad thing,” he pointed out. “The community is still strong.”

The popularity of horse breeds also ebbs and flows over time. The Arabian breed in particular, Drew said, has shrunk in Maine.

“The population that had Arabians aged out, and not as many younger people are into them,” he noted. “It’s a cycle. Plus, the world has so many more things (that compete for people’s time) than it used to.”

Despite heavy rainfall Sunday condensing the weekend schedule, Drew called the event an overall success.

“Word of mouth will make it bigger next year,” he predicted. “Everyone was happy and smiling, and that is not an easy thing to do.”

The Autumnfest Apple Jubilee Horse Show is affiliated with the Arabian Horse Association of Maine, Maine Horse Association, American Saddlebred Horse Association, American Saddlebred Association of Maine, Maine Quarter Horse Association and the Maine Morgan Horse Club. Fees for participating mostly cover the costs of awards and range from $4 to $95 per horse or stall rental.

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