Saddlebred enthusiasts can follow the Mercer horse show from anywhere in the world on a live webcast, using the newest technology to watch one of the oldest shows in the nation.
Richfield Video Productions, which has had a presence at the show for nearly 30 years, has been producing webcasts at horse shows for about a year that owner R.H. Bennett said have quickly found an audience on the Internet, and he said he thinks there will be also an audience for the 184-year-old Harrodsburg show, which began its five-night run Tuesday.
“The webcasting is the new, hot thing in the horse industry,” Bennett said. “My company started doing it last year about this time, and since then we have webcast all the shows we cover.”
Webcasting this show is another milestone for an event that is part of the oldest continuously operating county fair in the nation, and an advance that Mercer fair officials welcomed with open arms.
“We’ve worked hard on that. We wanted to make sure that happened,” Mercer horse show manager Brad Noel said. “R.H. and I are really close, and once I found out this was going on, I just asked him, ‘R.H., is there any possibility of this happening in Harrodsburg?’ He said, ‘Why not? But you’ll have to help me make it happen,’ and that’s what we did.”
That required installing wireless Internet service to allow Richfield to upload its video feed to its website, www.richfieldvideo.com. The company had used telephone or cable lines at all the shows it had previously covered, but neither of those are available at the Mercer fairgrounds.
“This is new to us, and we were a little concerned, but our speeds are higher than we’ve been getting through telephone or cable. So far I’m quite taken with it,” Bennett said.
Bennett has also been taken with the audience that other shows have drawn. One of the largest shows he has webcast to date is the Lexington Junior League show held earlier this month, and he said Richfield’s website got more than 161,000 hits during that six-night show, including about 9,400 individual streams of the five-gaited grand championship.
“I’m interested to see how many he has for this weekend,” Noel said.
Bennett said people from at least three continents have been watched previous shows.
“We get a tremendous following all over the United States, in South Africa and Europe,” he said.
He said he has been hearing from many of those people through Richfield’s Facebook page, which he also uses to announce upcoming streams.
“It’s people that don’t ever get to see what some of these shows are like, people in California and people in South Africa,” Bennett said. “They’ve heard about the Mercer County Fair & Horse Show being the oldest fair, and a lot of those people, this is the only opportunity they’ll ever have to get there.”
Noel said he isn’t worried that those who might be close enough to drive to his show will choose to stay home and watch on their computers.
“Some people said, ‘Aw, people will stay home and just watch it on the Internet,’ but if you’re going to come out to see a horse show, you want to see it live. If there’s a horse show close, I’m going to go see it. But if there’s one in another state, I’d love to watch it on the Internet,” he said.
Richfield’s primary role at saddlebred shows has been to shoot video that exhibitors can purchase. Bennett started his Shelbyville-based company in 1982 and has been shooting video at Harrodsburg since 1983 or ’84.
“This was one of the first shows that I did,” he said. “Videotape was just hot off the press, and now we’ve gone through videotape and we’ve gone through DVDs, and now we deliver our video through the Internet through a link, and our customers actually download it.”
While selling his videos pays the bills, Bennett said he believes the webcasts can be “a break-even proposition.”
“More and more people are getting on board,” he said. “We insert commercials during the dead times, and we insert things here and there. I don’t see it as a get-rich-quick scheme, but I see it as paying for itself, and it’ll also promote the saddlebred horse industry.”
That’s important to Bennett, who was a horseman long before he got into this line of work.
“I was showing them long before I was shooting them. I didn’t have the talent for the showing, and it didn’t take near as much talent to shoot,” he said with a smile.
Three cameras are being used for the live feed — Bennett manned one of them himself for a while Tuesday — and the webcast is directed and produced by his daughter, Vada, who is working out of a motor home just behind the grandstand.
Soon after the live stream ends — usually within just a few minutes — it is replayed once more for audiences in other time zones. The shows aren’t available on demand, but Bennett said he sometimes puts together a highlight package that might later be shown, and he often plays those as well as clips from older shows at times when there is no live stream.
He said Richfield will also webcast the Shelbyville show next week and the World’s Championship Horse Show in Louisville next month, and he said that so far saddlebred fans can’t seem to get enough.
“It’s like candy. People are calling and texting and emailing us,” he said. “We’ve been getting emails for a week from people: “Are you streaming Harrodsburg?”
Mercer County Fair &¿Horse Show Results
At Mercer County Fairgrounds, Harrodsburg
(Horses listed with owner and exhibitor, if different)
Equitation 17 &¿under — 1. Final Act, Delovely Farm, Macey Joan Miles.
ASB¿country pleasure adult — 1. CH Absolutely Exquisite, Robert Grom, Tara Grom; 2. Cameo’s Natalie, Steve & Julia Joyce, John & Tammie Conatser; 3. Callaway’s Character Counts, Eeta Sachon.
Amateur five-gaited — 1. Fort Chiswell’s Royal Kiss, Elisabeth Goth; 2. Cloverleaf Master & Commander, Bruce Williams; 3. Battle Rattle, Ainsley Farm, Ivy Johnson.
Road pony under saddle — 1. Silent Partner, Shamrock Farms, Kelsey Morgan; 2. Make Mine Gold, Little Britain Stables, Angela Mangine.
ASB open park pleasure — 1. Reedann’s Design For Victory, Ann Boyd, Mackenzie Lyttle; 2. If You Please, Lorna Thigpen, Kurt Tunstall; 3. Your Lucky Stars, David Crockett, Shelby Young.
Junior exhibitor three-gaited show pleasure, ages 14-17 — 1. Bungalow Bill, Jane Steinkamp, Molly Steinkamp; 2. Lenore’s Anna Maria, Brian & Leslie Tharp, Eden Tharp; 3. Evening Flame, Barbara Thomas, Foster Roberts.
Open pleasure pony driving — 1. Extremely Supreme, Lauren Mathewson; 2. Cherry Royale, Rainbow Princess Farms LLC, Caroline Rainbolt-Forbes; 3. Kilbro’s Movin On, Jim Tom Galbreath, Melody Galbreath.
Junior exhibitor five-gaited plesaure — 1. Adrenaline Rush, Paul & Leetta Beachum, Tanner Parham; 2. Got It Made, Mike Synskiesci &¿Nicole Tucker, Nicole Tucker; 3. Sunrise I Love Licorice, Ashlyn Farms LLC, Trey Watson.
Amateur road pony — 1. Heartland Yankee Strutter, Janet & Larry Meyer, Larry Meyer; 2. Ranger, Shamrock Farms, Kelsey Morgan; 3. Templar, Julianne Wilson, Aubri Kennamer.
Masters five-gaited — 1. Callaway’s No More Mr. Nice Guy, Bruce Williams; 2. SJ Space Buccaneer, Joellen Fisher Blount.
Three-gaited pony — 1. The Attache Orchid, Steven Chancellor, Hunter Chancellor.
Three-gaited park amateur — 1. CH Perfect Vengeance, Robert & Kim Grom, Tara Grom; 2. Cumberland Crescent, Ed & Candi Aversenti, Candi Aversenti; 3. Sole Heir, Ashlyn Farms LLC, Patrice Watson-O’Brien.
Open pleasure, excluding ASB — 1. Abe, Frickey Farms Inc., Karen Frickey; 2. Shamrock Silverado, Shamrock Farm, Aubri Kennamer; 3. Shamrock Sweet Pea, Shamrock Farm, Tim Kurtz.
UPHA 17-and-under pleasure equitation — 1. Cloverleaf Turner Jake, Debra Hurst Walters, Taylor Walters.
Five-gaited pony — 1. CH¿Red Flame Thrower, Barbara Goodman Manilow, Drew Taylor Hewitt; 2. Silvashay, Rainbow Princess Farm LLC, Eleanor Rainbolt-Forbes; 3. Legend’s Leading Lady, Dan & Diana Martin, Abigail Mutrux.
Open hackney pony — 1. Extremely Fine, Candied Partner LLC, Candi Aversenti; 2. Merlin Black, David Crockett, Shelby Young; 3. Be My Cover Girl, Bacon Stables, Barbara Bacon.
Open park pleasure driving — 1. Lady Devine, Luci Nowens, Felicity Vanden Berg.
Novice three-gaited — 1. Soquili’s Cavalier, B&T Vonderschmitt LLC, Heather Digiannantonio; 2. Castle Warrior, Mitch Clark; 3. Tango 2 Die For, Pieter Hugo, Neil Visser.
Open roadster to bike — 1. Thunderbolt, Belle Reve Farm, Raymond Shively; 2. Kitty Wells, Steve Crabtree.
Novice five-gaited — 1. Callaway’s Born To Ride, B&T Vonderschmitt LLC, Rob Byers; 2. Our Favorite Memory, Shirley Rinehart, A.J. Bruwer; 3. Legend Of Troy, Poser Farm, Melinda Moore.