Commitment pays off for 4-H member Manchester girl competes in horse and pony show

August 31, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Hours before the midway at the 117th Maryland State Fair in Timonium opened, several dozen 4-H girls and boys primped the hair and manes of horses preparing to compete yesterday in the 4-H horse and pony show.

Riders such as Laura Miller, 12, of Manchester train, groom and feed their horses six or seven days a week and compete at county fairs in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The 4-H horse project for junior and senior riders, ages 8 to 18, is operated by clubs in Baltimore and 23 Maryland counties and affords its members a first-hand chance to learn commitment.

For Miller, yesterday's long day of competition began at 5 a.m.

The North Carroll Middle School seventh-grader had bathed and braided Unbelievable, her 7-year-old mare, on Saturday night, but the pinto's white face and forelegs needed touching up before and after the Miller family -- Bob, Fay, Laura, Kristen, 9, and Kurt, 6 -- took their horse to stall 58 behind the show ring at the state fairgrounds.

Soon after Bob Shirley, superintendent for the western horse and pony show, called the day's first event at 8: 30 a.m., Laura presented Unbelievable in the ring to judge Mark Llewellyn.

Llewellyn, who competed 15 years ago as a 4-H member from Cumberland, returned from Lexington, Ky., where he works as a nutritional consultant for Kentucky Equine Research, to judge the contest.

Laura was nervous and perhaps a bit disappointed after earning a sixth-place ribbon in junior grooming and showmanship. The winner was Washington County's Valerie Schmidt aboard Rockettes Cocoa Bar.

Unbelievable helped Laura shake those early jitters, however, taking first in fillies and mares over 3 years old, and being named Championship Mare of the show.

Laura rode to a fourth in junior horsemanship for horses behind the winning entry of Preciious Deemer, ridden by Baltimore County's Sam Chenowith, a 14-year-old ninth-grader at Loch Raven High School.

And Laura edged the field of 22 in junior command, where horse and rider variously walk, jog, lope, stop, back up and make reverse turns on command, a sort of musical chairs as rider and horse are eliminated for even slight errors.

After repeated start and stop maneuvers, Laura and Unbelievable stood motionless as My Fine Crystal, ridden by Brittany White, 12, of Frederick County, flinched after coming to a halt.

Laura's winning smile showed that her summer-long effort -- two to three hours a day -- was truly unbelievable.

The fair midway opens at noon on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends. Admission is $4 for adults and children under 12 are free.

The fair continues through Sept. 7

Pub Date: 8/31/98

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