Strutting their stuff

“I’ve been to a lot of different horse shows of various breeds,” Dwight Graber reports. “But the Paso Fino horse shows are by far the most exciting.”

Graber admits to being prejudiced; after all, he’s the chairman for the annual Piedmont Paso Fino Horse Show, which will be at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher Thursday through Sunday, June 19-22.

But Graber is quick to back up his partiality: “The horses are much quicker-footed than the other breeds are,” he explains. “In fact, a Paso Fino moves its feet as fast as a thoroughbred does when it’s racing; it just doesn’t stretch them out as far.

And unlike many other breeds, the Paso Fino comes by its rapid gait naturally.

“They start gaiting from birth,” notes Graber. “The horse has to be ridden totally naturally. You cannot use any man-made devices to make it gait or make it perform other than the shoe it wears on its foot, which has to be a light, single shoe on each foot.”

The Paso Fino is also known for the precise, unbroken rhythm of its gait. Executed perfectly, the four hoof-beats are absolutely even in both cadence and impact, resulting in unequaled smoothness and comfort for the rider. In fact, the breed’s name comes from the Spanish “los caballos de paso fino” which means “the horses with the fine walk.”

The breed originally came from Spain, Graber explains. “Everywhere Columbus landed … you’ll find Paso Fino horses.”

In fact, he notes with a laugh, “If you know how small those ships were, you know why he picked a Paso Fino. The horse is about 14 hands to 15 hands in height [compared to 17-20 for most popular breeds] and probably even smaller when he brought them over originally.”

Over the centuries, the Paso Fino has been especially revered in Colombia, South America and in Puerto Rico. In fact, notes Graber, “In Colombia, the [Paso Fino] horse show is the second-most-watched event, next to soccer — so it’s pretty important there.”

The Piedmont Paso Fino Horse Show will give folks in this region a chance to learn more about these graceful animals and to watch them in action, says Graber.

The family-oriented event opens at 8 a.m. each day and runs until late evening. Daily events are open to the public at no charge; admission to the special 6 p.m. showings on Friday and Saturday is $5 for adults (children admitted free). The Saturday show will feature dinner served at arena-side tables for $20 per person.

During daytime hours, showgoers can expect to see competitions in “bella forma” (“beautiful form”); various gait speeds, such as classic fino, paso corto and paso largo; trail and versatility; and amateur riding. Riders will be competing for prize money as well as placement in the Grand National Championship Paso Fino Horse Show in Perry, Ga., in September.

The Friday-evening show “should be very exciting,” promises Graber, with advanced competitions and a stallion exhibition featuring world-champion horses.

Besides advanced competitions, the Saturday-evening show will also include a flag ceremony, children’s competitions and a costume contest.

“People make a costume that was used in earlier centuries, when the Paso Fino was the main means of getting around in Spain and Colombia and in other countries where the horse was,” Graber explains. … It should be a real fun evening.”

For more information, call the WNC Agricultural Center at 687-1414, or visit the Piedmont Paso Fino Horse Association’s Web site (

— Lisa Watters

Taking control

They say knowledge is power. And for the estimated quarter-of-a-million Americans who don’t realize they’re infected with HIV, knowledge could literally help them stay alive.

Despite the tremendous strides that have been made in diagnosing and treating HIV and related infections, far too many people still don’t find out that they’re HIV-positive until after they’ve developed a serious illness. That means they’re missing out on years of potentially helpful early treatment and care.

In 1995, the National Association of People with Aids designated June 27 as National HIV Testing Day. It’s a way to reach people at risk with a simple message: “Take the test; take control.” Anyone who’s ever had unprotected sex or shared a needle is especially encouraged to get tested.

In observance of National HIV Testing Day, the Hillcrest Community Center (100 Atkinson St. in Asheville) will offer free, confidential HIV testing — as well as information about the virus and its treatment — on Friday, June 27 (2-6 p.m.).

In Asheville, free confidential testing is also offered five days a week at Western North Carolina Community Health Services (10 Ridgelawn Road) or the Buncombe County Health Center (35 Woodfin St.).

For more information, contact Taryn Strauss of the Western North Carolina AIDS Project at 252-7489, ext. 12.

— Lisa Watters

Workshop helps nonprofits become radio-savvy

Bryson City — State budget cuts have put the squeeze on nonprofits just as they’re struggling to serve more people. Now, more than ever, nonprofits need all the tools available to them to help get the word out about what they do.

“Radio! The Perfect Tool and How to Use It to Market Your Nonprofit Organization,” a workshop presented by WBHN 1590 AM, is designed to help nonprofits make better use of this mass medium. The workshop happens Wednesday, June 25 from 1-4 p.m. at the Swain County Center for the Arts on the campus of Swain County High School (1415 Fontana Road in Bryson City). The cost is $15, and participants are encouraged to register ASAP.

“People use radio in all areas of their lives,” notes WBHN Marketing Consultant Janice Inabinett. “They get up with radio and prepare meals while listening to radio. People make decisions while listening to the radio.”

Inabinett began working at the station earlier this year; before that, she was a state employee working with nonprofits.

“When I walked in here and saw the opportunity for nonprofits to really promote themselves using radio … I began talking to the station manager about the possibility of doing something like this,” she explains.

The workshop will feature guest speakers and “inside hints on how to make this medium work better for you,” Inabinett reports.

“It’s going to be a good afternoon,” she promises. “[Participants] will walk away with the tools they need to better do their work.”

For more information, call Inabinett at (828) 488-2682.

— Lisa Watters

A toast to the fuel-cell future

The combination keeps many a stressed-out CEO running. So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that scotch and Maalox can run a motor, too — if it’s powered by a fuel cell.

According to local fuel-cell inventor and entrepreneur Tony Iacovelli, fuel cells can extract energy from everything from hydrogen to methanol to grain alcohol, while utilizing no moving parts and generating only water for exhaust.

Many energy experts predict that this decentralized, pollution-free technology will soon begin replacing fossil fuels as the engine of the world’s economy. And Western North Carolina’s farmers, academics, investors and creative free spirits, Iacovelli believes, are in an ideal position to pioneer the fuel-cell industry of the future.

Find out why on Tuesday, June 24, in an evening of presentations and demonstrations on fuel cells at Homewood, 19 Zillicoa St. (off Montford Avenue) beginning at 6 p.m. Topics will include fuel-cell technology, the industry (including local manufacturer Porvair) and the challenges facing it, market applications, opportunities, investing and more. Those in attendance will have a chance to drive an electric vehicle, and catered food and beverages will be available.

Want to attend? RSVP to Ashley Barker at 250-3513.

— Steve Rasmussen

Wind-petition-campaign kickoff

“Modern utility-scale wind turbines can produce electricity for less than 3 cents per kilowatt-hour,” Xpress reported late last year [“Wind Power Not Just a Lot of Hot Air,” Dec. 18]. “That’s cheaper than nuclear power. Cheaper than coal. Cheaper, even, than natural gas. In fact, wind power produced in class 5 and above wind regimes is the cheapest form of electric power currently available in the U.S. And with an average annual growth rate of more than 30 percent over the past half-decade, wind is also the fastest-growing sector of the energy industry.”

Intrigued? Here’s your chance to learn more.

Clean-air activists with The Canary Coaltion, The WNC Alliance, Environmental Defense, The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and The Longbranch Environmental Education Center will hold a joint press conference to announce the official kickoff of a statewide wind-power-petition campaign on Saturday, June 28 at 10 a.m. outside at Asheville City Hall.

— Cecil Bothwell


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