COLUMBIA — As Nikki Crocker, 8, maneuvered her horse around obstacles in a trail class horse competition, she felt nervous.
It was her first time competing and she had to take her horse, Bud, over a bridge, through wooden planks and through a rope gate.
"It went OK but he kept trying to eat the rope," Nikki said with a laugh. "I was really nervous but I'm just having fun now."
At 8 years old, Nikki was among the youngest competitors at the Boone County Fair 4-H and FFA Horse Show on Sunday. The two-day show gave riders up to age 21 an opportunity to compete in 12 events designed to showcase horse and rider talents.
Young riders come from diverse backgrounds and get interested in horses for various reasons, event coordinator Courtney Thompson said. When it comes to competitions, some participants start young and many get involved in their early teens, she said.
Katie Price, 15, said horse riding and competitions run in the family. Her parents raised horses and she has been riding them since she was five, she said.
"I'm competing in all of the horsemanship classes," she said. "It's really fun and I get to see all of my friends."
Kristin Lacy, 15, said a family friend owns the horses she competes with. The friend finds Kristin and her twin sister, Julia, horses to ride that have behavioral problems, and the duo tries to help them, she said.
"He said we just had too much talent, so he lets us ride his horses," Kristin said. "I'm just about done with my horse. I've done what I can do."
Julia Lacy, 15, said she has been very competitive with her sister. The sisters both said they enjoy competing against others in the flag race.
"It's fun and you get to go fast," Julia said. "You go grab a flag, and then run back and throw it in a barrel."
Kristin said she has helped train three horses and several mules. She and her sister wanted to train horses from a young age and pressured their parents into letting them.
Kyle Lacy said when his twin daughters were young, they would sneak over to the neighbor's yard and get on their horses. He thought it was just a phase, but pretty soon they were asking him and his wife, Maria, for a horse.
Training horses was never something she thought she would let her daughters do, Maria Lacy said. Eventually, though, she gave in.
"But it's their deal. They are taking care of them," she said with a laugh.
Supervising editor is Jake Kreinberg.