Barley Buckwheat, the biggest horse at the Howard County Pony Club Harvest Bowl Horse Trials, caused the biggest sensation of the day.
Barley Buckwheat, a draft horse ridden by Janine Hiryok, performed exceptionally Sunday at the trials. The 4-year-old purebred Belgian mare, owned by Renee Northcutt, pinned second in the dressage phase andput in faultless cross-country and stadium jumping rounds to win thedivision.
The mare received lots of attention and congratulatory pats as Janine placed the blue ribbon and blue-and-gold medal around her neck.
"I bought her when she was 6 months old, so we raised her to be a riding horse, although we do show her in the halter classes at draft horse shows," said Renee Northcutt, who owns another Belgian among her seven horses.
Ninety-nine horse-and-rider pairs showed up to compete at Sunday's event in Glenelg. Although the number was greater than expected, organizers handled the large crowd with aplomb.
"There were no particular scheduling problems," said event organizer and Pony Club co-District Commissioner Barb Hairfield.
"It's just goingto be a lo-o-ong day," she said during the event. "We started with the first ride at 8 a.m. and we'll hand out the ribbons about 6 this evening."
A horse trials is a three-phase event held in a single day. The horses and riders compete first in dressage, then ride over a cross-country course of jumps and finally negotiate a course of stadium jumps.
Horses and riders compete in divisions based on their experience.
The 10 divisions at Sunday's event ranged from Baby Beginner Novice Level (for the least experienced) to Training Level (for the most experienced). The divisions were further split by age for Junior and Senior riders.
The top three finishers in the Senior BabyBeginner Novice division were making their first try at this sport, having been inspired by watching the Waredaca Horse Trials in May.
Howard County residents Hiryok, Northcutt and Janice Walter placed in that order in their division riding Barley, Skippy and Clarabell, respectively.
Jubilant shouts of "We did it, we made it" were heardas the three friends finished the show jumping round and waited for the results of their division to be posted.
Janice Walter says that she and her 9-year-old quarter horse Clarabell started late in life.
"She is so pretty and kind, and giving that I went out and bought her baby brother. He's a yearling now and I can't wait until he is old enough to work with. He'll get an early start on all this."
The three women have been taking dressage lessons from Marta Roach of Ashton. Hiryok and Northcutt practice their jumping with the help of veteran jumper rider Kim Rachuba.
But no matter how good the tutoring you get, and no matter how much of it you get, you still have to go out there and do the dressage test and the jumping yourself.
'I was a little scared at first," said Walter about facing her first cross-country course, "but once we got started I had a ball and wasn't at all afraid."
Northcutt says she had no second thoughts between sending in the entry forms and finishing all three phases of the event.
Her only regret, she says, is that she and her friends did not know about combined training competitions before this.
"We thought it was all Olympic-level," Northcutt said. "We didn't realize that they have all this little stuff for people who are just getting started."
Northcutt's mount for the day was a 16.2-hand quarter horse named Skippy.
"He's young, so anything he does is an improvement," Northcutt said of Skippy's clean cross-country and stadium rounds, which pulled him up to second place overall in the division.
"The course was great and the whole event was beautifully organized."
The cross-country course featured 15 to 19 jumps, depending on the division. Horses and riders had to negotiate coops, stone walls, telephone poles, logs and a water obstacle, among other challenges.
There were eliminations on the cross-country course throughout the day -- for three refusals at jumps, for course errors or for unauthorized assistance from spectators -- with the water obstacle claiming the most victims.
Stadium course designer Tamara Kiser had the services of theHoward County Pony Club youngsters in decorating the stadium jumps in a harvest and Halloween theme.
"I wanted this to be a thinking course, and not too taxing," Kiser said as she watched the riders negotiate the course.
"I want to see smooth lines and good changes of direction. The horses have to show that they can come back and have stamina left and be sensible after riding the cross-country course."
While Barley the Belgian mare was drawing attention because of her massive size, at the other end of the size spectrum all eyes were on a 13-hand pony named Honey, I Shrunk the Horse. This chestnut mare isowned and ridden by Anne Brown of Glenwood, a Pony Club mother whosetwin daughters, Leathy and Megan, also competed.
It was obvious that Brown and Honey were out to have fun. They dressed in regulation kit for their dressage test, but then changed clothing before riding their cross-country course. Anne sported a pair of mouse ears over her safety helmet and wore a T-shirt that proclaimed: "Get off your high horse and ride ponies."
Although they did not ride into the ribbons, they probably had the most fun of any of the competitors.