A torrential downpour and pandemic concerns were no match for enthusiastic participants at Saturday’s annual Mid-Missouri Miniature Horse Show in New Bloomfield, Missouri.
Miniature horse handlers, owners and enthusiasts gathered for the second year in a row at the Carl Gastineau Memorial Arena for a number of competitive classes. These included passenger cart pulls, obstacle courses and a costume contest. Organizer Schellie Blochberger said the show is one of very few opportunities to showcase the small horses.
“It’s kind of almost a hidden thing,” Blochberger said. “When you go to an open show, there may be one or two classes that you can show them in. So, that’s kind of another reason for creating this, to give them more opportunity and more classes to show.”
While events were delayed in the first hour due to heavy thunderstorms, handlers went to work leading their miniature horses through an obstacle course for the in-hand trail class. Due to COVID-19, handlers were not required to touch any obstacles they normally would, and some were replaced with “imaginary” obstacles.
“We are not going to require that those things be touched, like opening a mailbox or opening a gate and going through it,” Blochberger said.
In an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, handlers were asked to stay with their trailers unless they were actively showing, and concessions were not offered as they have been in previous years.
After in-hand trail came in-hand jumping, a class in which miniature horses jump over a gate. First-year handler Kaylee Campbell was one of the first to take to the jumping class with her less enthusiastic miniature horse, Little Wayne. The brown mini horse, dressed in purple and teal ribbons, opted to delicately step over his obstacles rather than jump.
“Not much better than last year,” Campbell laughed as she and Little Wayne finished the course.
First place in jumping went to 15-year-old miniature horse Hollywood, owned by longtime horse handler and owner Barb Schaffer. Hollywood took great care in jumping high at this year’s show, a feat out of character, Schaffer said.
“He picked up his feet really well,” Schaffer said. “He usually doesn’t care.”
Schaffer has spent most of her life working with horses but only the last four years with miniature horses. She’s come to fall in love with the smaller horses since then, but she has loved none more than Hollywood.
“I think everyone should have one or two (miniature horses),” Schaffer said. “They say they’re like potato chips; you can’t have just one.”
Perhaps, the most thrilling moment to spectators was 13-year-old Ava Williams’ entry in the costume class. Suited up in a paper hat, white button-front shirt and large red bowtie, Williams and her miniature horse, Classie, pulled a cart decorated to look like an ice cream truck. With “C & A’s Ice Cream” signs hanging on the sides and rear of the cart. Williams’ getup was complete with music and free ice cream for children in the audience.
Driving classes that require miniature horses to pull a manned cart came at the end of the show. After deliberation between organizers on whether driving was safe after the morning’s heavy rain, Blochberger ultimately decided to let handlers decide.
Participating miniature horses and handlers wove in and out of obstacles and shredded through the wet grass while spectators watched from a small hill. Most enthusiastic of the spectators was 3-year-old Hugh Wilson, who jumped, clapped and shouted for each passing cart.
“He go fast,” Wilson said.
Blochberger emphasized that miniature horses are not ponies, although they’re often referred to as such. Miniature horses are generally shorter than ponies, she said, and are actually their own breed of horse.
For Saturday’s show, the only requirement for miniature horses was that they measure 38 inches or shorter at the withers, the ridge between a horse’s shoulders.
Handler Sallie Wickens and her horse, Puck, garnered the most points in the adult categories at Saturday’s event, and Williams earned the most points in the youth division. Both brought home “high point” trophies.
“I really enjoy it, especially being (at the show),” Campbell said. “It’s a very laid back environment. People are very friendly ... It’s a good sense of community.”