Central Iowa Fair horse show competitors offer insight

T-R PHOTOS BY ADAM SODDERS - At top: Two of Wednesday’s Central Iowa Fair western pleasure and horsemanship participants were Maci Kelber, left, and Carli Pfantz, right. They and other participants showed off their horses, demonstrating their obedience and grace. More livestock and animal showmanship events will take place Friday and Saturday at the fair. Below: Rylee Damman, 10, was all smiles after being named grand champion in the halter portion of Wednesday’s Central Iowa Fair 4-H/FFA Horse Show.

One of the highlights of the Central Iowa Fair is the wide variety of livestock showcases — one of the strongest bonds on display is the one between horse handlers and their steeds.

A hot sun beating down on the fairground’s Outdoor Arena didn’t stop a crowd from gathering, mostly in the shade, to watch halter, showmanship, western pleasure and more competitive horse events Thursday.

“It takes a lot of dedication, you can’t just stop and give up on it, you have to keep going with it,” said Maci Kelber, 14. “It takes a lot more than some people think.”

While she is not involved in a lot of school activities at West Marshall, Kelber said horse showing and riding gives her a fun, challenging activity to enjoy.

“A lot of them will start when they’re like 2 or 3 (years old), training for riding, getting them broke and everything,” she said. “Once you get them, you have to click with them … you have to figure them out so that you’re doing everything correctly.”

Two grand champions were named during Thursday’s horse show proceedings. Showmanship winner Braelyn Lander, 18, and halter winner Rylee Damman, 10, will go on to compete in the Livestock Supreme Showmanship Contest at 2 p.m. Saturday at the fairground’s Pavilion.

Lander said “starting them young” and “always working with them” are good ways to train horses.

“They’re just gentle giants,” she said.

Damman has worked with horses for most of her young life.

“Before I started doing 4-H, I had been doing these horse shows that me and my sister compete in,” she said. “It might seem hard, but it’s really fun.”

The participants had to do multiple tasks with their horses Thursday, from showing form to obedience displays and riding prowess.

For 12-year-old Lindsey Hopkins, Thursday’s event was a big test.

“For me, what’s hard is my confidence,” she said. “Most of my life, I’ve never been confident in myself and you have to be confident in yourself to control the horse, or else it’s going to do what it wants.”

For Genesee Merical, 17, the events were a good challenge.

“We have to make sure that the horses are OK outside of home and take them a lot of places before,” she said. “We have to work with them to make sure they know what they’re supposed to do and when they’re supposed to do it.”

Genesee said it takes “months to years” of hard work, practice and bond-building to be good at horse showing and riding.

The Central Iowa Fair continues Friday with a beef show at 9 a.m. in the Pavilion, a Marshall County Cattlemen BBQ from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., educational activities from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the Blank Park Zoo, and more.

For a full schedule, visit centraliowafairgrounds.net/central-iowa-fair.html

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Contact Adam Sodders at

(641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com