Cowboys, cowgirls battle for chance to claim top horse honors
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 5, 2012 1:46 PM
Noah Conder of Goldsboro leads his pony around the judging area during the Open Pony and Mule Show at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair late Thursday afternoon. The show was one of the main events of the day, with hundreds of people out to watch the animals and their handlers.
Daniel Jackson of Dudley keeps a firm grip on his pony.
DUDLEY -- Emily Dunn of Grantham guided her charcoal gray miniature stallion into the arena at Wayne Regional Agriculture Fair Thursday evening.
The 12-year-old recalled the advice she had been given by her aunt, Rose Massey -- "You've got to keep the feet lined up and you have got to keep on the opposite side of the judge."
Now she just had to hope the animal would cooperate better than the one she showed last year.
"Last year, he bucked and reared. He decided to escape on my back," she said. "When I got through, I had two hoofprints on my stomach and two on my back."
As she awaited the judges' arrival Thursday night, the pony grew impatient, bolting a few times, but Emily gently tugged on the hot pink reins to get him situated. He circled around her, twisting his head in protest.
Nearby, fellow contestant Connor Bauer was having similar problems with his light tan mini mare, "Buttercup."
The 10-year-old, decked out in a large black cowboy hat, red shirt, string tie and boots, was not rattled, keeping a smile on his face throughout the judging.
"They have had horses for two years," said his dad, Greg Bauer. "My 3-year-old, Isabella, showed her pony and older son, Jacob, will be showing a quarter horse."
Connor and Jacob, 11, would later be pitted against each other in another contest, when they were chosen to show Belgian horses "Judd" and "Jed."
In the draft horse category, Jacob earned a second place ribbon and title of reserve champion, while Connor's horse placed third.
The best part about being in such an event?
"Winning," said Connor, a broad grin breaking out across his face.
Ms. Massey, who raises horses and currently has about 25, had enlisted the help of family members to show them at the fair.
"A lot of these are my little nieces and nephews," she said, pointing out several in the arena. "I let them come and handle them. It gives them an opportunity to see what it's like to take care of an animal, of respect. It teaches them a lot of stuff."
For the Minchews of Goldsboro, it was also a family affair. In addition to entering four rabbits and five chickens in this year's fair -- which won first- and second-place ribbons, they noted -- they had two quarter horses and three miniature versions.
Mom Amy said she and husband, Steve, followed their children's lead in becoming horse owners.
Megan Minchew, 6, a first-grader at Spring Creek Elementary School, was there to show "Diamond," a miniature mare.
"She's good. When you stand behind her, she won't kick you," she said with a giggle.
Sister Jessica Minchew, 16, a student at Spring Creek High School, showed 14-month-old "Cocoa," a miniature stallion, earning a fifth-place ribbon.
Jimmy Johnson traveled in from Harnett County, but had a local connection.
"My wife is from Wayne County, so we come down for the grandkids to show," he said. "They have been showing for 12 to 14 years."
His wife, the former Connie Aycock, approached with daughter, Paige Johnson, 15.
Johnson, holding the reins of a chocolate gelding quarter horse they named "Bubba," said Paige typically shows him at 4-H events.
"You never know" about winning, he shrugged. "My girls have grown up showing sheep, ponies. They actually do pretty good."
Paige said, "I have to practice a few weeks ahead and if we haven't been in show season, I have to get him back in the grooming and the workouts that he has to do to get him back in shape.
"Usually a few days before, I have to work him out and make sure he's clean and his ears are clipped."
Another Wayne County family with a rich tradition of horsemanship also made an impressive showing at the event. Ross Head Stables had 11 animals entered in the events, said Ashley Head Conder of Goldsboro, daughter of Ross Head Jr.
"We have been showing since we were little," she said.
This year her own children -- Olivia, 2, and Noah, 6 -- also participated, in the category for the youngest contestants, for which they each received blue ribbons.
Mrs. Conder's brother, Wilson Head, who works at the family business, had an impressive run, both literally and figuratively.
He garnered a string of third place finishes, as he made a continuous loop around the arena, barely exiting one event before he would pick up the reins of his next entry and return for the next round of judging.
Cousin Cora Head, a 10th grader at Spring Creek High School, also got into the act, accompanying "Smiley," another miniature horse.
"This is my fifth year. I think I got like sixth place, maybe $2," she said. "It's OK. It's fun."