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By Beka Compton
The Times 

Horsin' around before the Columbia County Fair


September 9, 2021

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Ashlyn Brooks with just a couple of the awards that she won during the 2021 Columbia County Fair Horse Show, which took place two weekends before the fair.

In just a few days, cows, curly fries, and farm critters will take over the Columbia County Fairgrounds for a "Blue Ribbon A-Fair."

For the young horsewomen from Rocking D Riders 4-H club, the fair began early after the Columbia County Fair Horse Show was moved to an earlier weekend to solve time and space constraints. Having the show held on a weekend before the fair allowed fans and riders to distance themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic safely.

Under the guidance of 4-H leader Shelli Bryant, members Ashlyn Brooks, Dia Adkins, Dori Adkins, and Hope Adkins breezed their way through western gaming, showmanship and halter classes, and various riding classes.

The youngest in the group, Dori, is in the Cloverbud program for kids in Kindergarten through Grade 2, who aren't quite old enough to have their own projects according to 4-H rules. Showing Maria, a palomino mare, Dori competed in leadline classes and showmanship. She explained that leadline classes mean that the horse is led by an older 4-H'er or adult (her big sister Hope helped) for rider safety. Dori took home a Grand Champion ribbon that was nearly as big as she is!

"You can't get Dori off of a horse once she gets on!" Dori's mom, Alicia, said.

Ashlyn Brooks showed her horse, Koda, for her very first horse show. It was an excellent day for Ashlyn, who took home reserve grand champion in showmanship in the Junior division. She had a lot of fun with gaming and trail courses, as well.

"When we did the flag race, my horse was terrified of the flags," Ashlyn said. "But I made him do the race."

For Hope Adkins, the 2021 horse show was full of triumphs. Last year, she took a tumble from her horse during the gaming events. She came back with the tenacity of a true horsewoman this year, gaining speed with each new event. Her mom, Alicia, added that Hope rode her new horse for less than 10 minutes before taking on barrel racing, pole bending, and other gaming events.

"I was just proud of her for getting out there and just, well, doing it," Alicia shared.

Hope said that the first obstacle in the trail course included moving a grain bucket from one barrel to the next. In between giggles, she said her horse had to make sure there weren't any treats in the bucket before allowing Hope to pick it up and continue through the course.

Dia Adkins said she decided to start showing horses earlier this year after seeing how much fun her sister, Hope, has riding. She showed her horse, Autumn, and said that she loved her showmanship classes.

"I was proud of Autumn in showmanship," Dia said. "We won grand champion!"

Preparing for a horse show starts months in advance. The girls shared that they regularly attended riding lessons with 4-H leader Bryant, practicing haunch turns for showmanship, picking up the correct lead while loping their horses, and overall saddle posture. General horse education, including knowing equine anatomy and basic care-taking practices, are essential parts of 4-H horse projects, and the members of the Rocking D Riders are up to speed. Members will have their knowledge on display this weekend, so be sure to stop by the barns and learn something new.

Rocking D Riders began in 1974 when Bryant's mother asked Dr. Kennie Reeves to start a 4-H club. Between 1974 and 1990, club leaders included Darla Smith and Barbra Phinney. Reeves resumed leadership in 1990 with assistant leader Darby Yates. The 4-H club had been inactive for a couple of years before Shelli took over, assisted by volunteer Dawn Rodriguez. She said that all the parents had been wonderful additions to the 4-H club.

The club would like to extend a special thank you to Carolyn Laib, the Columbia County Fair Horse Superintendent, and Bonnie Laib and Cathy Flemming for volunteering their time to help put the show on, as well as Columbia County 4-H Program Coordinator, Donna Hanger.

Though the horse show took place already, the girls have plenty of fun activities planned, including groom squad and judging at the Columbia County Fair. The 4-H horses will be stalled at the Columbia County Fair, just west of the cattle barns, so stop by and say "hi" this September 10-12.


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