XENIA — For those who witnessed the Horse Fun Show on Saturday at the Greene County Fair, the sights and showmanship may have seemed a bit unusual to those unfamiliar with the sport.
And no, we’re not talking about the costume contest.
During the bareback equitation class, the last of the competitive events that morning, the judge decided it was time to pull out all the stops.
The first few commands were fairly straightforward. “Walk.” “Trot.” “Canter.” Pretty easy commands for experienced riders. Then, the instruction came over the loudspeaker: “Coasting trot, one hand behind your back.”
The following commands were just as interesting. “Sitting trot, one hand on top of your head.”
“Two point canter, one hand out.”
By the end of the class, the five participating seniors were visibly out of breath. All of them had risen to the challenge, and matched the judge’s demands. For bareback equitation, Riley Lawless of the Jeans and Jodhpurs 4-H Club was declared the winner.
Afterwards, Lawless said that only when the competition is really close will judges get that creative with their riding instructions.
“For the first few years, it’s easy to see who’s a beginner,” she said. “But, we’re all seniors. We’ve been doing this for years.”
Between the speed and focus that it takes to guide a horse over and through an obstacle course, whether it be crossrails or barrels, one would think that Saturday’s activities would feel rather high-octane in nature. The competitors practice all year for these competitions. However, Lawless remarked that for everyone present, it’s less stressful than even Tuesday’s showmanship events, and all about enjoying the time spent in the ring.
“Everyone’s out here to have fun and prove that they have the horsemanship skills to compete,” she said.
Lawless is in her senior year at the Greene County Career Center, and plans to pursue equine science at either South Dakota State or Findlay University. Most of the other girls who competed in the show also attend GCCC. All but one are from the same Jeans and Jodhpurs 4-H Club in Jamestown.
The other seniors, including Dessie Shepherd, Darby Ballard, Sara Hutchinson, and Elizabeth McDonald, also placed in different events throughout the day. Hannah Lewis took first place in musical freestyle with her routine to the tune of Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls.” Finally, Ava Baker won the costume contest with a traffic-safety themed getup for both her horse and herself.