By Christina M. Wright
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON — Dogs may be a man’s best friend, but horses have been Americans’ companions since before the country’s founding.
At the Horse and Pony Show, the last event for the 2010 Madison County 4-H Fair, horses brought tears to two groups. One group remembered a fallen leader with her horse, and another honored their fallen horses just by showing up.
“It’s been good for us,” said Morgan Whiteman, a 4-H rider who appeared at the show for the first time without her beloved Miracle.
Miracle, a prize-winning mare, was one of 13 horses that perished in a Chesterfield stable fire more than two months ago. The teenagers, though distraught, have begun to heal from the loss, said stable owner Joyce Baker.
“It took them a while to get over that; there’s still days,” she said.
After the fire at Indiana Stallion Station, the construction company rebuilt a shell for the new stable, Baker said. Then, the 4-H’ers went to work putting in stalls and rebuilding the indoor arena.
“We’ve only got about four stables left,” said 13-year-old Morgan.
Practice didn’t stop, said Tim Zambos, father of one of the teens. He said he was impressed and honored to see the group members put on their boots and slickers to practice in muddy rain.
“They just cowgirled up,” he said, as his daughter Makaela walked back into the fairground’s stables. “These kids, they’ve been through a lot, but I’m proud of them.”
And the girls made a showing at Saturday’s event. Baker said most of the 12 won some sort of award. Morgan’s twin sister, Megan Whiteman, won grand champion in the Western Mares over-56-inches category. Mikaela won second in the barrels race, Riley Lephart won the costume class, Nikki Campbell won the princess ambassadorship, and Camden Nunley won the prince ambassadorship.
Morgan didn’t win the barrel, pole or flag races on her new horse, Tabby. She said Tabby was faster but not as comfortable with outdoor arenas.
“It kind of feels like she’s here with me,” Morgan said, twirling a black, braided bracelet made from Miracle’s tail.
Celebrating with a champion
On the other side of the competition, a group came together to surprise a single leader who lost his girlfriend in December.
“They got me,” said Bob Clendenin, a co-leader of the 4-H Ruff Ryders.
His 4-H’ers entered Fancy, a bay roan horse, in the yearling competition, knowing that she was the only entrant and would win champion and grand champion in the category.
“It broke my heart,” Clendenin said. “It made me cry in front of a bunch of people.”
Clendenin said he bought Fancy last year for his girlfriend, Lisa Hartley. He said Hartley wanted a blue roan, but Fancy fell in his price range.
“We took care of her (Fancy) all winter,” he said.
Hartley died right after Christmas, at age 46. The Ruff Ryders’ tribute to her on Saturday, Clendenin said, was a perfect way to remember Hartley.
“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Hartley said.
Contact Christina M. Wright, 640-4883, firstname.lastname@example.org.