Showmanship and equitation canter into Fred Grand Arena

The sun was shining and the spurs were jingling this past Sunday at the Fred Grand Arena as the Ramona Junior Fair held its annual Horse Show.  

Riders from all over the county, representing Grange, FFA and 4-H clubs came together for a full day of fun and competition. The bout was broken down into Novice, Junior, and Senior divisions, based on the rider’s experience level and age.  

The Novice Division has no age limit, and is reserved for First Year Riders.  The Junior Division is for riders from 9 to 13 years old, while the Senior Division is for riders 14 and older.  

Each division participated in several classes that included Showmanship, English & Western Equitation, Horsemanship, English & Western Pleasure, Trail, Single Pole, Speed Barrels, Clover Leaf and a Written Examination. Riders and their horses were judged on their appearance as well as their performance.  Participants were given strict guidelines on the attire they wore and the equipment used on their horses.

This year’s event saw an increase in the number of horses entered compared with years past.  Nancy Christensen, horse superintendant for the junior fair, credits 4H offices and clubs for putting out notices to help get the numbers up this year.  

“Twenty-three horses have entered,” she said. “That’s nearly four times more than last year.  Plus we have some new clubs participating for the first time.”  

Standing in the shade watching one of her favorite events, Trail, Christensen said, “Trust between the horse and its rider is everything. And it takes time to build that trust.”

One girl who understands what it takes is Melanie Mitton, an 11-year-old 4-H member from Ramona.  In her first year competing, Melanie rode her horse Corky in the Novice Division’s Showmanship, Western Equitation and Trail events.  Asked what her favorite part of the competition was, she replied, “Just seeing all of these new things that the horse has to get used to.”  Melanie and Corky saw lots of new things on their trail event, riding through gates, around cones, over wooden poles, and even opening and closing a mailbox.

Parents and riding instructors anxiously watched as daughters and pupils attempted to navigate the tricky obstacles, follow announcer’s commands and keep control of animals much larger than they—all while smiling and trying to keep their neat white uniforms as dust-free as possible.  

Judging is based on AHSA (American Horse Shows Association) and California State Fair rules and the American Judging System. Grooming and cleanliness of the animal, appearance of the exhibitor, and the horse’s moving, poise, alertness and attitude all factor into the judges’ decisions. Ribbons are awarded for first through sixth place in each class and division.

Brenna Alvarez, another Ramona 4-H rider, is just 9 years old, but has been riding since she was 3—her “whole life,” if you ask her. Don’t let her young age fool you, though. She and her horse, Lady Boot Jac, earned High Points honors in the Junior Division. As her father watched her interview, beaming with pride, Brenna said she has been practicing a lot leading up to the RJF Horse Show.  Referring to her horse Dusty, Brenna smiled and said, “She is a good horse.”

Sign-in for the show began at 11 a.m. on Sunday, and the final events and awards did not wrap up until well after 6 p.m., making for a long day for participants, animals, spectators and show organizers alike.  As seems to be the theme for all things junior fair-related, this event was successful for many reasons, but maybe none more so than the efforts of the volunteers who worked tirelessly to organize and carry out the day’s events.  With another competition under their belts, and ribbons to display back at home, each and every rider in the horse show built a little more trust in their animals, and confidence in themselves.

   
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