10/05/07 — Horses, mules and donkeys take center stage at the fair

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Horses, mules and donkeys take center stage at the fair

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 5, 2007 2:01 PM

It was family feud night in the horse ring at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair Thursday night. Sister competed against sister. Mothers stood toe-to-toe with their children. And a wife looked for revenge against her husband.

For a moment, Thursday night's open pony, mule and draft horse show, as well as the open horse show, looked like a miniature soap opera as some of the pairs continued long-standing rivalries, while others faced off for the first time.

"Justice has been done," said Debbie Stroud, grand champion in the draft horse category.

Showing Whiz, a Belgian draft horse, Mrs. Stroud was about as pleased as she could be to have the title back on her side of the bed after losing it to her husband last year.

"I left the horse I had last year at home," Don Stroud grumbled after not even placing.

"It doesn't matter. You were still here," Mrs. Stroud quickly retorted.

Of course the loss didn't bother Don too bad. At least he will get fed this year.

"It was a week before I got a hot meal," he said of his 2006 victory.

But they weren't the only competitors likely to run into each other at home.

Paige and Heather Johnson of Angiers also were back. And while Heather placed second, compared to Paige's third-place finish in the western gelding 3-year-old-and-up category, both placed first in their respective junior showmanship divisions.

Walking Buddy out of the ring with her ribbon at the end of the showmanship round, Paige, 10, kissed his neck and said that she had expected to win. After all, her closest competition last year when she won was her sister, and this time Heather, 14, was in the older division.

"This is a lot of fun," Paige said. "It's pretty much about you and how you show your horse. Buddy's a really good showmanship horse. He listens to everything I ask him to do."

Not every animal was as cooperative, though.

Hope Lucas of Benson had a little more trouble with her mule Texas Pete.

"They pretty much have a mind of their own. He does what he wants," she said. "Like tonight, he's never been anywhere like this with all the lights, and he didn't want to trot."

"You know what it was, though? I didn't have his Fig Newtons with him. He loves Fig Newtons."

So she talked him through the event, calmly whispering his name and clucking at him, and as he stood at attention for the judge, it was enough for the pair to take home the grand champion ribbon.

Other competitions on the night pitted parent and child.

A giddy Denise Pittman of Wilson County, jumped up and down with tears of joy in her eyes, unable to believe it when the announcer called her name as grand champion for the western mare category.

It was a category that her mother, Pat Ovalle, had won for the last three years. This, though, was Denise's first show at the Wayne Regional Fair after returning to the area from Virginia last year.

"This is my first year showing against her so that makes it exciting," she said.

But at least she had shown before.

For Rose Massey of Grantham, Thursday night was her first show ever. An objective observer never would have known, though, as she left the fairgrounds with not one, but two grand champion titles -- one for her miniature mare and the other for her miniature donkey. Both were won over her son, Mark, who has been showing since he was four years old.

"I had this beautiful horse I wanted to show and nobody else would do it, so I did," Mrs. Massey said.

From there, she just decided as long as she was bringing one, she might as well bring two.

"I'm just shocked that I won," she said.

But Mark wasn't. Despite not winning, he said he enjoyed competing against his mother and was proud at what she had accomplished.

"That's my momma," he said with smile.