Riders from across Midwest compete in historical horse show

Friday, July 30, 2010 | 2:48 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Riders from around the country keep a long-lasting tradition alive as they trot their way to victory.

The riders showed off the horse's ability to walk, trot and canter to the judge Friday at the Boone County Fair Society Horse Show. Tracy Mulligan, show manager from Columbia, said the event is important at the fair and has an extensive history.

“The show has been a staple at the fair since the very beginning,” Mulligan said. “People from Nebraska, Illinois, all over Missouri, Oklahoma — mostly surrounding states come to the show.”

Since the fair began in 1835, horses have been a part of it with races and shows. In the 1890s, transporting horses by railroad became popular. Horses could be brought to the fair from as far away as California, Kentucky and Louisiana, according to a history of the fair complied by Virginia Botts.

Mulligan said 130 horses in more than 105 class divisions will be shown by the week's end. Some divisions have only one horse in competition; many have two. She said the occasion draws a large crowd and sparks interest.

“People get really excited, especially younger kids,” Mulligan said. “They want to take classes afterward.”

Friday morning marked the halfway point for the Boone County Fair Society Horse Show. It started Wednesday and continues through Saturday.

Melissa Williamson, 15, from Hallsville, has a tradition of competing at the fair.

“I have been riding since I was nine, and I have been coming to the fair for a long time,” Williamson said. “I like the competition and seeing what I can accomplish each time.”

Williamson won second place in the American Saddlebred Gaited Country Pleasure Novice class. This was her last event at the county fair, but she said she would compete at the state fair in two weeks.

Richelle Perkins, 20, said the show is a tradition for her also. Perkins said she has been riding since she was 7 years old.

“I like the outfit. I like getting dressed up and winning,” Perkins said. “I get very nervous before, but getting in there and riding is not so bad.”

Along with old traditions came new ones this year. The new judge and another class division for young horses were added.

Nancy Becker, from Nicholasville, Ky., has 30 years of experience and is the new judge. She said her job consists of finding the horse in each class that performs the best based on the requirements. She said the riders are judged based on gaits or various speeds, such as a walk or trot.

“The quality of the horses and riders has been great,” Becker said. “We have seen a great crowd this week, also.”

The new class division was Oklahoma Futurity Open Weanling Colt. Mulligan said colts are young horses, about 2 years old.

“There are very few specialized shows that host (colts),” Mulligan said. “They are interesting and fun to watch.”

The championship rounds starts Friday night and continues through Saturday. Saturday is the last day for the Society Horse Show. Shows are at 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

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