After years of preparation and two days of competition with her horse, Molly Dana now has less than a week to learn how to show a goat, a rabbit and a chicken.
Dana, 18, was named 4-H Horse and Pony Expert Showman on Sunday at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fair.
Molly will go on to compete Friday in the fair’s Supreme Showmanship contest, where she and Expert Showman winners from the poultry, rabbit and goat divisions will test their skills with four different fair animals.
“I’m just really excited,” Molly said. “I’ve never even been eligible (to compete) before.”
Dana and her horse, a 7-year-old Appaloosa named “Kaia,” have been practicing together for three years.
At the beginning of their relationship, Kaia — Molly’s first horse — took advantage of Molly’s kindness, she said. Molly said she now uses a firmer hand and has earned Kaia’s respect.
“She feels safer when I’m around,” Molly said.
When she and her horse come upon a new situation or object, such as a tent flap, Molly said Kaia will nudge her forward and Molly will touch the tent, letting Kaia know everything is OK, before the horse will move forward.
Kaia is also big on cuddling, Molly said.
Ruth Kfoury, Molly’s mother, said 4-H has been a great experience for her daughter.
The leadership roles, such as judging and organizing horse stall assignments for this year’s fair, have really seemed to increase Molly’s focus, Kfoury said.
“And she loves helping the little kids,” Kfoury said.
Dana said owning a horse involves a lot of early mornings and long hours warming up and training the animal, but it’s worth it.
“I love doing it,” she said.
Dana was visibly nervous Sunday before her first few competitions, but once she was out in the ring, she calmly led Kaia through the showmanship judge’s predetermined patterns.
“Go get ‘em, Molly,” shouted her dad, Rick Dana.
“Good luck, Molly,” called her older sister, Katie Dana.
With bright orange cones to mark the way, Molly Dana took quick steps across the sand, leading her horse gracefully — or as gracefully as possible when your dance partner weighs about 1,000 pounds and has two left feet, literally — by tugging on the reigns and making kissing and clicking noises.
When she gets out in the ring, Dana says she gets so nervous that her brain “just quits.”
Her first-place ribbons, however, would indicate differently.
“I’m really happy,” she said.
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