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posted: 8/12/2014 5:30 AM

'United Nations of horses' returns to Kane County

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  • The Patricia Lopez Escaramuza Team performs at last year's Festival of the Horse and Drum. This year's event is Saturday and Sunday at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles.

      The Patricia Lopez Escaramuza Team performs at last year's Festival of the Horse and Drum. This year's event is Saturday and Sunday at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles.
    COURTESY of the FESTIVAL OF THE HORSE AND DRUM

  • Desiree Herrmann, a trainer at the Monte Cristo Equestrian Center in Maple Park, performs with her stallion, Guapo, last year at the Kane County Fairgrounds.

      Desiree Herrmann, a trainer at the Monte Cristo Equestrian Center in Maple Park, performs with her stallion, Guapo, last year at the Kane County Fairgrounds.
    COURTESY of the FESTIVAL OF THE HORSE AND DRUM

 
By Lauren Rohr
Daily Herald correspondent

Jill McCrae isn't your typical horse instructor.

Instead of training horses and riders to perform jumps and tricks, McCrae, of Grayslake, teaches French classical dressage, a form of riding that centers around grace and elegance while using a nonforce training method, she said. The horse and rider perform very organized routines, all put to music.

"The music and the horses go hand-in-hand. It's very beautiful, and it appears as if the horse and the rider have become one," McCrae said. "We're straight out of the 17th century."

French classical dressage is just one of the many styles of riding that will be demonstrated this weekend in St. Charles at the second annual Festival of the Horse and Drum, which celebrates various cultures and traditions using horses as a common thread.

"We bring together all different ethnicities with their horses," said event coordinator Lisa Diersen, of St. Charles. "We are the United Nations of horses and humans."

On Saturday and Sunday visitors can check out the many different horse displays and demonstrations spread throughout the Kane County Fairgrounds, 525 S. Randall Road. Part of the festival grounds will be divided by themes, such as a cowboy town, a renaissance village and a Mexican salsa village.

Some of this year's highlights, all of which feature horses, include war re-enactments, a Native American Pow Wow and a salsa dancing competition, Diersen said.

"Our goal is to make it a very educational family event," she said. "There's not a lot of places anymore where you can take your kids to see a real Native American Pow Wow and a Country Western Extravaganza all in one place, There's a lot of fun stuff happening here."

Throughout the weekend, horse-related movies will be shown at the festival as part of the 2014 Equus Film Festival. Visitors can also enjoy live entertainment at the Horse-A-Palooza stage, where dance troupes and cultural bands will perform.

The festival will serve as more than just an educational opportunity, event coordinator Ron Vesser, of Chicago, said. Auctions will be held during the weekend to raise money for two organizations: Horses of Honor, which honors fallen police officers, and Operation Support Our Troops, which helps members of the military and their families.

"We always wanted to have a relationship with our responders ­-- police, fire, the military," Vesser said. "We have a love and appreciation for them, and this is a way of showing it."

Additionally, information regarding equine therapy can be found throughout the fairgrounds, Diersen said. Specialists will demonstrate this type of therapy, she added, so families can learn how it helps people with physical, mental and emotional disabilities.

For McCrae, the Festival of the Horse and Drum is about preserving cultural traditions.

"I'm excited to bring horses and share French classical dressage with people," she said. "We carry on the legacy, and I feel very strongly about teaching this and having it sustain over the next thousand years. Hopefully, people will see that and get inspired."

For more information and to view a full schedule, visit FestivaloftheHorseandDrum.com.

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