Riders take on obstacle course at county fair

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Matthew Wright, 10, maneuvers his horse, Individual's Last Chance, around obstacles at the Trail Class event on Tuesday at the Routt County Fair.

— Patience, persistence and staying calm were key to Tuesday's 4-H trail horse riding event at the Routt County Fair.

"The whole idea is when you're up in the mountains, there are all sorts of obstacles," said Ernie Wright, whose 10-year-old grandson, Matthew Wright, was participating in the event.

The young 4-Hers were not in the mountains but rather testing their skills on an obstacle course on the fairgrounds track in Hayden.

"Stay calm, don't get frustrated or nervous, or your horse will be frustrated or nervous," said 11-year-old Aleigh Aurin while sitting on her pink saddle and wearing pink cowboy boots.

The trail event was one of several events taking place during the 4-H horse competition.

For some, the event was tedious and boring, said Eagle County 4-H agent Jenny Wood, who judged the competition.

For Aleigh and her 10-year-old friend Arielle Gold, they enjoy the challenge of the trail event.

"It's kind of frustrating sometimes, but it's not boring," said Aleigh, who is from Steamboat Springs.

"The key to trail is to be patient," Arielle said.

There were seven tasks riders had to accomplish during the event.

First, the rider had to maneuver his or horse next to a rope gate, which simulates some of the gates that would be found while on a ride. The rider maneuvers through the gate, closes the gate and jogs the horse over a series of poles on the ground.

The horse is then ridden into a box to perform a 360-degree turn on hindquarters. They make a left lead turn and walk over a wooden bridge.

Then, the rider sets up next to a pole on the ground and encourages the horse to walk sideways toward a mailbox. The rider has to open and close the mailbox before performing another sidepass over the pole. The rider then has to take his or her horse backward through three cones.

There is no time limit, but Wood looked closely to judge how each rider controlled his or her horse during each of the tasks.

"The key is to have a very quiet horse," Wood said. "They have to be very calm and quiet to get through it."

The rider has to be equally as quiet.

"If they get upset, the horse shows that," Wood said.

- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4210 or e-mail mstensland@steamboatpilot.com

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