GREENFIELD — Audrey Roberts pulled her horse’s face toward her and gave it a kiss.
The pair had just been named grand champion in the halter class in their first Hancock County 4-H Horse and Pony Show. Standing with Infinite Mystery in a makeshift arena set up west of the multipurpose arena, where the show is typically conducted, 11-year-old Audrey was all smiles.
She was among 25 Hancock County horse and pony club members who showed up to the fairgrounds to compete Saturday, more than a week after heavy rain canceled their fair-time event.
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Horse and pony leaders rescheduled the show for over the weekend and prayed rain wouldn’t delay their efforts again.
When a heavy thunderstorm rolled in Friday afternoon, leaders knew the multipurpose arena would be too wet for 4-H’ers and their horses to safely perform there, said co-superintendent Barb Pescitelli, but she and other organizers didn’t want to cancel again so they sprang into action, setting up a makeshift arena in a grassy field next to their usual spot.
Some events — including contesting events — still will be conducted at a later date.
The horse and pony show typically kicks off the Hancock County 4-H Fair, and families, friends and fair-goers crowd the multipurpose arena to watch members show off their skills. But twice in the past three years, rain has canceled the event, forcing 4-H leaders to reschedule their show for long after the hustle and bustle of fair week is gone.
When rain comes, the uncovered dirt arena turns into a muddy mess, and fair events slated to take place there, including the horse and pony show, are frequently called off. For years, leaders and members have pointed to rescheduled events there — in 2015, the horse and pony show was canceled twice before leaders gave up and moved it to a covered arena out of the county — as a reason to build a new fairgrounds with better facilities.
But on Saturday, Audrey and other 4-H’ers who participated in the halter, showmanship and mini 4-H contest didn’t seem to mind having the fairgrounds all to themselves.
Sure, there were no lemon shakeups, no elephant ears and a much smaller crowd, but Saturday was their day to show off all they’ve learned in the past year. Competing under bright blue skies, surrounded by faithful fans who packed lawn chairs and lunch to come watch, many 4-H’ers were beaming.
As 15-year-old Sydney Bradfield left the show arena with her horse, India, she said she and other members have become accustomed to battling the weather.
Last week, she eyed the forecast, pretty certain she wouldn’t be competing during fair week. With that in mind, she didn’t spend hours preparing India for the show, she said.
She put off bathing her horse, knowing once the show was canceled, she’d have to do it again. And she didn’t bother braiding her mane and tail until she was certain the show was on schedule, she said.
The rescheduled show also gave members more time to practice with their horses, which was a relief for some busy members.
Nine-year member Avery Eller had marching band camp every day the week before the fair, leaving her little time to work with her horse, Stella. When the show was canceled, horse and pony club leaders held an extra practice, and Avery and other 4-H’ers spent time riding and walking their horses in their spare time.
Audrey is certain the additional practice time helped her and Infinite Mystery earn the show’s top honor, she said. After all, she hadn’t expected to win one of her first times in the ring.
Still, leaders know having to reschedule the show is inconvenient. Members and their families mark show day on their calendars months in advance and plan summer vacations around it.
When the show has to be rescheduled, there is usually a handful of members unable to participate; for those 4-H’ers, months of hard work don’t end with the big show and a ribbon, which leaves some feeling disappointed.
They hope someday, they won’t have to worry about the weather cooperating. Under a covered arena, shows will go on — rain or shine.
But until then, organizers and members will work with what they have, and they’ll appreciate days like Saturday, when not one cloud threatened their plans.
“All in all, we’ll get through it,” Pescitelli said.
Some horse and pony events will be held later this month. The date has been scheduled for July 28 and 29. Watch the Daily Reporter for updates on contest times.