If you love horses, Estes Park is the place to be this summer. Stop by the state-of-the-art Fairgrounds at Stanley Park most mornings, grab a free seat, and watch talented horses compete.

The traditional horse show season begins in earnest in late June. The Rocky Mountain Miniature Horse Show showcases adult horses that grow to only 34 to 38 inches high, the size of a small pony. July 2 and 3 the classic Arabians roll into town. The statuesque horses boast a distinctive head shape, a high tail carriage and are a delight to watch compete.

Team penning competition the second weekend in July evolved out of common ranch work where cowboys separated cattle into pens for branding, doctoring and transport. Today the fast-paced event gives a team of three riders on horseback from 60 to 90 seconds to separate three identified cattle from a herd of 30 and put them into a 16x24-foot pen through a 10-foot opening on the opposite end of the arena.

The Colorado Hunter-Jumper Association competitors arrive in late July and contend in three shows for nearly four weeks until mid-August. Hunter-jumpers are a division of English riding where hunters are judged by their consistency and movement. Jumpers
compete to see how quickly a horse can complete a course of jumps with the fewest faults. At the conclusion of each show, a $25,000 Grand Prix event tests the skills of the nation's best riders.

The third week of August the Paragon Dressage Horse Show comes to town. Dressage judges the art of balance and communication between horse and rider and is occasionally referred to as "horse ballet." The winners perform difficult technical routines while appearing relaxed and effortless.

Concluding the horse season is the Draft Horse Show on Sunday, August 21. Watch Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron and Shires display their work ethic in the single horse and teams competition. Or marvel as these gentle giants show their style and grace in
the hitch classes.

Events generally begin at 8 a.m. and continue until all classes are completed. See www.visitestespark.com/ for more information.