Since 1979, the Midwest Horse Fair has been providing an experience for equine enthusiasts and the public through exposition, education and entertainment — and this year will be no exception. For the event’s “ruby” celebration, organizers have packed many memorable events into this year’s roster, including The Mustang Challenge, their feature competition, and an art gallery to pay homage to 40 years.

More than 60,000 people are expected to attend the Midwest Horse Fair April 12-14 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. This year’s theme is “40 Years of Legends.” The event has an $11 million economic impact on the greater Madison area, with attendees from near and far drawn to the event that hosts 40 expert clinicians, 500 exhibitors, 700 horses and two sell-out evening shows.

“We are excited to celebrate the growth the event has experienced from its inception four decades ago,” said Megan Hanuszczak, executive director. “From a two-day fair with 58 exhibitors and four guest speakers, Midwest Horse Fair has exploded into a three-day, action-packed celebration of horses.”

Gates open each day at 7 a.m., with opening-day activities on April 12 including numerous sessions in the morning, followed by the Mustang Mounted Color Guard, presented by Operation Wild Horse; a draft horse demonstration by the Midwest Draft Horse Enthusiasts; and an American Paint demonstration by the Midwest Paint Horse Club, all featured in the Blain’s Farm and Fleet Coliseum starting at 11:30 a.m.

At 12:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, the Midwest Horse Fair Grand March will take place, showcasing 40 legendary breeds representing multiple disciplines, celebrity horses and world-renowned acts. With music, fun and horses at the center of this event, the Grand March also provides a snapshot of the essence of the Midwest Horse Fair as a whole.

The Friday night Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Rodeo is also sure to draw a crowd, featuring the seven standard rodeo events: bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and bull riding. The rodeo is sponsored by Nutrena.

Sessions continue on Saturday, April 13, leading up to the Midwest Horse Fair’s feature competition: the Mustang Challenge. A total of 56 equine trainers were matched with virtually untouched wild mustangs, spending 90 days with the horses in preparation for the in-hand competition. Ten finalists will perform Saturday night, competing for more than $20,000 in cash prizes.

“Each trainer has been working hard to train and establish a unique bond with their horse,” said Hanuszczak. “We’re so excited to see the progress our contestants and their respective horses have made in just a few months.”

In addition to the Mustang Challenge, other competitions throughout the weekend include World Championship Blacksmiths, Dressage Freestyle and Horse Judging.

To steer future breeding decisions, mare owners can view stallions of all different types on Stallion Avenue in Pavilion 1. Attendees will also enjoy breed and discipline demonstrations, activities in the Kids Korral and pony and carriage rides, with a portion of the carriage ride proceeds benefiting Operation Wild Horse.

Four living legends, who have been immortalized as Breyer Models, will be on display in the Celebrity Horse Area of Pavilion 2. See replicas of Standardbred, Foiled Again, the richest harness racing horse in history; Empres, the Arabian horse with top wins in five countries; Dusty, the Rocky Mountain Horse who has been featured in a series of children’s adventure books; and Chocolate Chip Kisses, the Pinto pony who earned an incredible 22 World Championship titles in just two years.

An art gallery will also be located on the second floor of the Exhibition Hall, showcasing 20 original Midwest Horse Fair theme paintings, thoughtfully created since 2000 by local artist Larry Schultz.

For more information about the Midwest Horse Fair, including a more detailed schedule, visit midwesthorsefair.com, and follow the fair on Facebook or Twitter.