The Herald Bulletin

July 22, 2011

Showmanship and responsibility

Many of family’s 21 horses shown by horseless children, teaching youngsters lessons

By Brandi Watters
The Herald Bulletin

ALEXANDRIA, Ind. — The Mares family of Lapel will bring a total of 21 horses to the Madison County 4-H Fair this week, but most of those horses will be shown by horseless children.

Kay and David Mares’ two sons, 16-year-old Tom and 11-year-old Joe, showed a few horses Friday. The majority of the family’s horses will be on display at the fair by children who don’t have horses of their own.

“It teaches them responsibility and good manners,” grandfather Carl Mares said of the fair.

Each year, Carl Mares and his wife, Vernell, drive to Alexandria from their Lowell, Ind., home to watch their grandchildren in showmanship and riding competitions with the horses.

The Mares children also showed chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys during the agriculture exhibitions at the fair.

While the Mares family might make money auctioning off those animals, the horses are purely a hobby, according to Kay Mares.

Kay Mares said the family allows area children to help care for the horses, and many of the animals are rescued from abusive situations.

That’s the case for Diesel, a dark brown Dutch Carriage horse once used to pull a buggy for an Amish family.

The horse came to the Mares family severely abused and now spends its days in a pasture, occasionally visiting the fair for a show or two.

Bobby, a small Hackney pony, also came from an abusive situation in Amish country, Kay Mares said.

Vinny, a caramel-colored Walkaloosa, came from an abusive home, and Randy, an American Quarterhorse, was rescued from the auction block.

Kay Mares is moved by the story of Eclipse, a  dark brown American Quarterhorse that once belonged to a little girl. The girl had to give the horse up and found the horse six years later. Now, the girl is able to visit the horse and spend time with him at the Mares family farm.

Not all of the Mares’ horses were abused. Mongo, a Tennessee Walker, was used for trail riding and now does high-stepping in the 4-H competitions.

Rhonda Perkins, leader of the Ruff Ryders 4-H horse club that the Mares belong to, said she also allows horseless 4-H kids to show her horses.

This year, six 4-H participants borrowed her horses for the fair.

The horse community is tight-knit, Perkins said, and lost one of its own this week. Long-time horse lover Russell Redlinger, 80, passed away before he got a chance to see this year’s 4-H horse show, Perkins said.

Though his horse handling days were long over, Redlinger could be counted on to be at the sidelines of each horse show at the fair, Perkins said. The young 4-H kids called him “grandpa,” and his absence was noticed by many as the competition began Friday.

Kay Mares said she understands Redlinger’s obsession with horses. “It’s almost a bug. You get bit and you have to have them.”

Contact Brandi Watters 640-4847,