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Young people and their horses opened the Champaign County Fair

Olivia Shike, age 17, of Sadorus, guides her horse Finn across the "bridge" obstacle in the Trail event of the 4-H Horse Show at the Champaign County Fair.

URBANA – Cattle, sheep and swine are being shown off in agricultural competitions this week at the Champaign County Fair in Urbana. But this past weekend belonged to the horses, with three different horse shows on the schedule.

The horse show on the fair opening day (Friday, July 21) was organized by 4-H, and featured 28 pre-teen and teen-age trainers and their horses..

Among the competitors was 17-year-old Olivia Shike of Sadorus, and her horse Deep and Natural, nicknamed Finn.

I really like showing in horse shows because there’s just so many types of things you do,” said Shike, who attends Unit High School in Tolono. “It doesn’t really get old.”

Shike says horse show judges look at both her performance and that of her horse Finn.

“For the showmanship class, they want to see how much I’m in control of leading him around, how well I understand the pattern,” said Shike. “Then, the horsemanship class is also the pattern. And they just want to see kind of how I’m sitting up there. Do we both look good, am I in control? But then the other classes are more focused on how he looks, how he’s riding, his movement.”

One example of the challenges Shike and her horse Finn encountered was in the Trail competition.  A horse and its rider encounters several obstacles which often require the rider’s active guidance of the horse to cross. One obstacle, a low wooden platform, representing a bridge, seem to present a difficulty to many of the horses, who preferred to walk around instead of across it. Shike and her horse Finn took first place in that particular exercise.

Myla Munro, who coordinates local 4-H activities for the Illinois Extension, says competing in horse shows teaches young people life skills that go beyond working with horses. But as someone who shows horses herself, she says it’s also an enjoyable pastime.

“It’s just fun,” said Munro. “It’s a community of people, and we all are out here. We all kind of show up at the horse show every year. So it’s just nice to see folks that you haven’t seen in a year or so, and watch the kids grow up.”

Munro notes that all those competing in Friday’s 4-H Horse Show were proficient enough to earn A/Blue ratings from the judges. In addition, Olivia Shike was named the Senior Showmanship Champion; Johanna Leerkamp was the Overall Highpoint winner; and Trinity Goodlove was the winner in the Highpoint Walk/Trot category.

Horses will be on display again at the Champaign County Fair on Tuesday. July 25, beginning at 6 PM, when harness racing is featured on the fairgrounds’ Champaign County Speedway track. The fair continues through Saturday, July 29.

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows

Jim Meadows has been covering local news for WILL Radio since 2000, with occasional periods as local host for Morning Edition and All Things Considered and a stint hosting WILL's old Focus talk show. He was previously a reporter at public radio station WCBU in Peoria.

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