Horses showcase their stuff

88th annual Routt County Fair and Rodeo gets under way

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— The fair began on Saturday with the soft sounds of lost love and soon to be lost love country music pouring out of the Routt County Fairgrounds' announcer's booth. Below, in the outdoor rodeo arena, horse owners from Rifle to Newcastle, Wyo., walked their horses for the judges.

The stands held a handful of Hayden residents who had stopped by to see the Routt County Fair and Rodeo begin its 88th year. Spectators exchanged comments on their preference of mane style and breed.

At 11 a.m. Saturday, the yearlings were restless. They shook their heads and leaned up against their owners.

True Starbuck, a 1-year-old American paint horse, was shifting from foot to foot under the hot sun. Her class was next to walk through the arena. She belongs to Jeff and Terri George of the Elk River Ranch near Steamboat. They raise paints and horses for roping and have their own roping arena.

Starbuck was her mother's last colt. She is now deceased. Her father, however, is still alive and touring on the paint show circuit.

"I think (Starbuck's) future lies in the paint circuit," Terri George said.

At this point, it's hard to tell. Starbuck is a beautiful animal with a very sweet disposition. She has a brown face and body with white spilling down her shoulders and front legs and onto her tail.

"But (as a yearling) this is the ugliest they get," George said. "This is the horse's awkward stage."

Competing in the same class, but as a gelding, Two Eyed Grandson stood not waiting for his number to be called. He was just as eager as the other yearlings. His back legs swung him one direction and then the other. He pressed hard against owner Lora Werner.

"He is not good at being away from his mommy," she said. Two Eyed Grandson, who goes by the nickname "Dos," has been in the arena once before, when he was just a colt. That time he got to go in with his mother. This time, he went solo.

Dos is a dark red quarterhorse with well-defined muscles and a shining coat. He was led into the arena on a rope halter. Werner defines Dos as a refined quarterhorse because he is still smaller than most.

Dos lives near Steamboat, south of Milner with six other quarterhorses.

Werner and her husband, Jack Horner, work during the day at Valley Rentals in Steamboat and work with their animals in the evening.

"It's the only reason I'm still sane," she said.

When they get a chance, the couple both compete in the team penning event at the rodeo.

"My husband really loves it and travels all over to compete. I just compete in the local event," she said.

On Saturday, Horner was in Steamboat at the Romick Rodeo Arena competing, but Werner was showing because her leg was broken. She half hopped out with Dos to show him to the judges. He was the lone little redhead of the group and walked away with a third-place ribbon against two paints.

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