County Fairs, Children, and Horses

August 12, 2012


Last weekend we attended the County Fair in our little hometown in northeastern New Mexico. The highlight was watching the children and their horses compete in the youth rodeo.
As a child going to the rodeo was always one of my favorite events at the county fair we attended in a nearby community. At that time the main activity I really enjoyed was barrel racing. Even though I had a fear of riding horses I always dreamed of being able to barrel race in a real rodeo. At that time (about 60 years ago) barrel racing was pretty much the only thing available to girls and you had to be a teenager before you could participate. If you wanted to run for County Fair Queen you were required to compete in barrel racing.
Things are much different now… they actually dedicate an entire rodeo to young people ages 3 through 18 and have all types of competitions to compete.
The first competition was goat dressing. The children were divided into 2 age groups, 3 through 6 and 7 through 10. A small fenced in area held enough young goats so each child could have a chance of catching a goat and putting a t-shirt over the goats head. Then they had to take the goat to the judge to be registered and then take the t-shirt off the goat. The older children went first while the goats were more frisky then the younger children took their turn. The children all had fun, the people in the grandstands probably had more fun watching, and the goats… well, they were all good sports and tolerated being dressed in a t-shirt.
The next competition also involved goats. Some of the older children, 10 and above caught the goats and secured a dollar bill on each goat’s tail with a rubber band. Then the 2 age groups of younger children had the opportunity to take a dollar bill off the tail of a goat. This was called ‘goat scramble.’ Another lively event was enjoyed by all.
Next the children 11 years and older had a ‘calf scramble.’ They took dollar bills off the tails of calves. It was a bit more challenging because the calves were much larger animals than the goats and they were in a much larger pen.
Barrel racing was the next competition event. Three barrels are placed a distance apart in the arena. Each contestant is timed and scored in how fast they can ride their horse around each barrel as close as possible without touching a barrel and then ride back to the starting point. The fastest time without deductions for touching a barrel wins 1st place in each age group with a 2nd and 3rd place also awarded.
The 3 to 6 years old were so adorable out there on their horses and most were riding full sized horses. Participation was the main goal in this age group. It takes considerable skill to guide your horse around the barrels and then back to the starting point.
Some of the youngest participants had to have a little assistance… one mother actually led her child’s horse around the barrels but then the child was able to get his horse to slow gallop back to the starting point. Another youngster’s older sister rode her horse in front with a lead rope guiding her little sister around the barrels. I was very impressed with how patient the older sister (about 9 years old) was in working with her own horse while safely working with her little sister’s horse… she was great. One young boy had trouble making his horse go toward the barrels but he was persistent and finally his horse obeyed his commands, making it around the barrels.
Other competitions were pole bending in which each participant rode their horse to the end of 6 poles, then rode their horse as quickly as possible weaving in and out of the poles one way and then the other way ending with a gallop back to the starting point. There was a timed competition with a barrel set up close to the far end of the arena. The barrel had a block on top with a small red flag stuck in the block. The rider and horse galloped to the barrel circling close enough for the rider to grab the flag and race back to the starting point. One horse was leery of the flag but the rider patiently introduced the horse to the flag, retrieved it and raced back to the starting/ending point.
The youth rodeo ended with calf riding. This is similar to bronc riding with horses only much safer for the youngsters. In this they are scored according to the length of time they are able to ride the calf after being let out of the chute.
Some youth rodeos also have mutton busting for the younger children. Evidently there were no local sheep available for the event this year.
Our day at the county fair also involved eating a delicious barbeque prepared by the local Cowbell’s Club, observing a pie/dessert auction with proceeds going to a scholarship fund, and viewing the exhibits. The exhibits included 4H projects, crafts, sewing, quilting, photography, other visual art, canning, baking, fresh grown vegetables, and displays about the county set up by local clubs and organizations.
A County Fair is a great representation of the communities within the county. It is an accumulation of work by participants, parents, and volunteers working together… very refreshing.
The horsemanship of the children was amazing. A horse is a powerful animal but is very responsive to proper training, loving attention, and care. These children who participated in the County Fair displayed their ability to care for their horses responsibly and train them to work as a true partner in the task at hand.
We can learn from them as we apply these same abilities to our daily life. Be responsible, do the basics, practice skills, and train so we can work with others as a true partner.
What is your favorite thing about attending or participating in a County Fair?
Memories from the County Fair
Pat Moon
Disclaimer: The photos are of our grandchildren on the ranch… I failed to take pictures while at the fair.

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  Pat is a Health, Fitness, and Nutrition Coach. 

Pat has been married to the same man for over 51 years, is the mother of 3 adult children, and gramma to 8 grandchildren.  Growing up in the country gave her a head start to living a healthy lifestyle.  This gramma became interested in nutrition as a mother and for the past 27 plus years she has specialized in teaching others the importance of good nutrition.  Challenges along the road have been many; her father overcoming congestive heart failure with nutrition, her husband's battle with GERD and avoiding a major heart attack, her daughter's battle with a brain tumor, her grandson beating Hodgkin's Lymphoma, her mother's stage 4 lung cancer, and others.  Her goal is to help others have the BEST REAL HEALTH possible and slow the aging process.  The products Pat has personally used since 1985 are featured at

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Leave a Comment

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Helena Bowers August 18, 2012 at 9:21 am

Sounds like you had a wonderful time! One of these days I'm going to learn how to ride a horse. It's something I've always wanted to do.


2 Pat Moon August 22, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Hi Helena, don’t wait too long to learn how to ride a horse.. life is too short so go out and do it as soon as possible.


3 Catherine Doucette August 17, 2012 at 11:41 am

Glad you had fun.


4 Pat Moon August 22, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Catherine, yes attending that small county fair was really a fun day. Thanks for taking time to read my article.


5 Marie Leslie August 17, 2012 at 10:46 am

I have always loved going to the fair–and the animals have long been one of my favorite parts. Though I was never a competitive rider (kind of hard to be if you don't own a horse), I learned to barrel race, riding bareback, no less,  when I was a very young teen and always loved it. Thanks for some great memories.


6 Pat Moon August 22, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Marie, how wonderful that you experienced barrel racing bareback. Riding bareback allows you to feel the horse as well as allowing the horse to respond to your commands… glad you enjoyed the memories.


7 Cathy | Treatment Talk August 16, 2012 at 3:57 pm

It is so fun when kids can learn at an early age to ride a horse and participate in the county fair. I learned to ride when I was 8 and it is still one of my fondest memories of riding a horse and participating in a horse show. Thanks for the reminder.


8 Pat Moon August 22, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Cathy, you are so fortunate to have those fond memories of riding a horse and participating in a horse show. It is something that many, many children never have the opportunity to experience what it is like to bond and work with a horse.


9 Martha Giffen August 15, 2012 at 7:29 am

I've NEVER heard of those goats games!  How much fun would THAT be??  Thanks for giving us a glimpse into what life is like at your fair!  I could almost smell the popcorn and cotton candy!


10 Pat Moon August 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Hi Martha, I had never heard of those goat games before but they were fun to watch. The fair we went to was the hometown where we both grew up and was so small there was no popcorn or cotton candy… so it was really a small town fair but fun for us to reconnect with people we knew from a long time ago.


11 Anita August 15, 2012 at 6:26 am

What fun!! Goat dressing sounds like a blast for the kiddies:)


12 Pat Moon August 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Anita, that was the first time I had witnessed a goat dressing… it was really fun and cute to watch, especially the younger children. At one time we raised goats… the young ones were so cute.


13 Sherie August 14, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Pat, I haven't been to a fair like your County Fair in many years. When I did go, my favorite part was the baby animals and the fudge that was made fresh on site. I think it is time to find one and go again. Your post made me feel like I was right there. My daughter has a horse that she is training to barrel race. I love watching horses and seeing them strut their stuff. Loved your post!


14 Pat Moon August 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Sherie… yes, it is time you find a County Fair and go again. When we lived in CA, our fair always had a fudge booth.. I’d hold out until the end of the fair and then allow myself a treat. That is wonderful that your daughter has a horse and is learning to barrel race. Will she be racing in competitions? If so, that will be fun for you and her. Hope it goes well.


15 Alexandra McAllister August 14, 2012 at 1:45 pm

What a fun post, Pat! Thanks for sharing your wonderful day at the Country Fair! I haven't been to one in ages but when I did go, I loved the animals and the home made jams and pies! Your post is such a breath of fresh air!


16 Pat Moon August 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Alexandra, thanks for your comment… glad you liked it. We always went to the County Fair when I was growing up and most of the time when our children were growing up. In our small town in CA, the county fair was always where you could go to see people you hadn’t seen all year… it was like a homecoming for the community.


17 Sue Glashower August 14, 2012 at 10:10 am

I loved reading your article! The fair brings back great memories for me as I was involved in 4-H and showed both sheep and steers as a child. Next week is our local fair and my daughter is showing pigs for the first time. We are looking forward to it – watch for a post about our fair experience on my blog soon!


18 Ron August 13, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Great read Pat! I felt like I was reading a novel. I've never been to one either, but I could visualize it clearly as I read your blog and viewed the pictures. a nice, feel-good story.


19 Jessica Stone August 13, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Sounds like you had a great time!!  We (me & my sister & mom) trained with Natural Horsemanship with our thoroughbred and LOVED it.  I love the connection to the animals and how natural and freeing it is for both humans and horses compared to most horse training.  Thanks for sharing your time with us!


20 Claudia Looi August 13, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Pat, I've never been to a county fair. I'm learning something new from you today. It is interesting to read about girls' event 60 years ago.


21 Pat Moon August 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Claudia, you should take your children to a county fair sometime just for the experience. Things have changed through the years but they still focus on country living in all areas… homemaking, cooking, baking, canning, gardening, sewing, crafts, woodworking, quilt making, animals (small & large), and animal skills as far as care, training, etc. Most fairs have the carnival rides, etc. where you can spend a ton of money but the kids seem to enjoy those. And then there are various types of rodeos, etc.


22 Olga Hermans August 13, 2012 at 2:26 pm

This summer we have been to the Calgary Stampede for a day and of course we like the horses. It is a beautiful site hen you see the horses running in the open fields and on the prairies of Alberta.I think the fair that you went to Pat was much more fun than the busy Calgary Stampede; it is way too busy, you have to pay big money for every little thing and there is a lot of drinking going on. The smaller towns must be a lot more entertaining than this.


23 Pat Moon August 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Olga, I believe the Calgary Stampede would be amazing to attend but I do agree, the larger events are so commercialized and every little thing costs a ton of money… whereas the smaller fairs are low budget and fun too. One of the joys of attending the small fair at our hometown is knowing the contestants or at least knowing their family… that makes it more personal.


24 Mary Marriner August 13, 2012 at 11:59 am

The animals, always!  But, the horses in particular.  There has been a life long love affair between horses and myself!


25 Pat Moon August 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm

I also enjoy looking at the animals and especially the horses but this little county fair we attended did not have animal barns… the participants trailered their animals in for the days events. I did miss that. Thx for your read and comment.


26 Matthew Reed August 13, 2012 at 10:34 am

For us browsing through the different animal barns!


27 Pat Moon August 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Matthew, I’ve always enjoyed browsing through the different animal barns as well. Unfortunately, the little County Fair I wrote about does not have animal barns. Participants have to trailer their animals in for the judging, sale, performances, and competitions. It was a real country County Fair. Thanks for your comment.


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