The Cass County 4-H Fair typically gives its visitors the picture of rural America. Kids in cowboy boots populate barns full of livestock, queen contestants pair sundresses and tiaras with sawdust and sneakers, and high school marching bands sell lemon shake-ups and elephant ears in booths shaped like miniature red barns.
In the Horse Arena on the fairgrounds’ northern edge, visitors on Thursday afternoon were transported to the country cottages of England.
The final day of competition in the 4-H Horse and Pony Show features the English classes of competition, in which contestants in breeches and riding boots guide their horses around the show ring and over fences.
Hannah Donovan, a member of the 2014 Cass County Queen’s Court as well as the Horse and Pony project, said that her path to English showmanship began in her backyard, jumping over barrels for fun in the off-season.
“A friend of mine said, ‘If you like this, you should try your horse in English,’ “ she said. “And it’s definitely, I think, the most fun to ride in.”
The English showmanship events make up only a small portion of the 33 events listed in the 4-H Horse and Pony Handbook. Horse and Pony participants compete for four of the five days of the fair, starting with contesting events on Monday and Tuesday and ending with showmanship on Wednesday and Thursday.
With the extensive time required for the Horse and Pony project, participants and parents say theirs is one of the closest communities of the animal projects.
“I think everybody supports each other,” said Anita Doan, a Horse and Pony parent who attended Tuesday’s events with a group of parents and relatives of her child’s friends. “If one kid has a good run, it’s exciting for everyone.”
Members of the Horse and Pony events spend time together far beyond the week of the fair, gathering for meetings of the Horse and Pony Club once a month to share demonstrations and plan service events.