From Richland Source
By Brittany Schock
MANSFIELD, Ohio – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the Richland County Fair. Guests may wander through the barns looking at the cute animals, but few are aware of the hard work put forth by junior fair members weeks and even months in advance.
For 15-year-old Laurasen Combs, her fair project began with the birth of her alpaca – and it was hard work from the very beginning.
“I really like the challenge, so I picked her because she was the hardest one to work with out of the whole herd,” said Combs. “She was the baby no one could catch and was the most ornery.”
Combs’ risk paid off, she won first place in obstacles and second in showmanship with her alpaca. She explained showmanship is judged on how well handler and animal work as a team, but obstacles are all about trust as the animal is led through various structures designed to simulate being out on the trail.
“I only ran through obstacles with her twice, but we worked on trust a lot,” said Combs. “I sat in the pasture and her on a long lead, and I’d pull her close to me and let her go. That was she doesn’t associate me with work and not having fun, and having to constantly do what she’s not used to.”
While the awards are an added bonus, Combs noted her favorite part about the fair is ultimately the people.
“I like meeting new friends, seeing all my old friends and seeing how hard everybody worked on their projects,” she said.
Working with a smaller animal at the Richland County Fair this week is 15-year-old Macy Eicher of the Lucas Leaders II 4-H club. Eicher was preparing to show her rabbit on Wednesday, and she noted judges are mostly looking for meat on a rabbit.
“They flip your rabbit and they see what the meat looks like, their fur and their feet,” she said.
While there isn’t much she could do to improve the meat on her rabbit, Eicher said she learned to feed her rabbit sunflower seeds to help with their fur quality.
“I like learning what you can learn from the fair and from the rabbits,” she said.
Across the fairgrounds in the pony barn, 11-year-old Chase Davenport from Sandusky County said he’d only practiced working with his pony Penelope about a week before the Richland County Fair. But his aunt, Jessica Garcia, was quick to counter Davenport’s dedication.
“He’s been driving carts since age five – he’s always loved to do it,” said Garcia.
Garcia explained Davenport has been working with Penelope for a long time in preparation for a few other fairs, but only started preparing for the Richland County Fair last week. Davenport’s bond with Penelope was evident on Wednesday when he won first place in the 9-12 age group of the Junior Draft Horse Halter/Showmanship competition.
“We show halter by walking them in, setting them up and making sure their front and back feet are together,” said Davenport. “You walk in front of the judge and follow their directions, they look at you and then you go back in line.”
Davenport said he prepared Penelope for showing by braiding her tail, combing her mane and cleaning her feet. Garcia added the entire family camps out at the fair throughout the week, and it’s hard to keep Davenport out of the barn.
“It’s a fun family experience – we spend lots of time together,” she said.
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