John Essink is the best rider of the Otoe County 4-H horse show, but there is grit, determination and skill at every level.
Essink was points champion after placing grand champion in 11 categories including showmanship, trail riding, flag race, barrels and pole bending.
The 17-year-old son of Dennis and Gina Essink of Syracuse said he enjoys competition at breed shows throughout the year, but the timed events are his favorite.
“I like the barrels the best because I get to go fast and I'm sort of good at it,” he said.
Essink showed RG Bayou Blue Larraue, a 20-year-old Morgan that is familiar to the county fair. In 2008, brother Brandon Essink showed RG Bayou as the fair's champion pleasure-type horse.
Riding “Buy This Jet,” Essink won the flag race at 9.7 seconds; barrels at 19.19 seconds; keyhole, 9.56 seconds; and pole bending, 24.25 seconds.
The reserve point champion was Dessi Blacketer riding Tjs First Princess. Blacketer was first in reining.
The superhorse award, earned by performance at both halter and pleasure riding events on Monday and speed events on Tuesday, went to Logan Stubbendick.
Stubbendick earned a purple in showmanship, reserve champion in horsemanship, blue in trail riding, purple in reining, and blue in western riding.
Colten Blacketer was reserve champion. He said the keyhole race is one of his favorites because it’s easy to understand what to do, but hard to master the skills.
He said balance in the saddle and control over the horse are important skills in many of the timed events.
Superhorse intermediate winner was Austin Jensen.
Jensen was grand champ showman, grand champion in horsemanship, champion in trail and barrel racing. He earned a blue in western riding.
Annie Bennier was reserve riding Tuff.
In juniors, Megan Wallman received the superhorse award.
She was the reserve champion showman, earned a blue in horsemanship, blue in poles and in barrels.
Gracie Lintz was reserve champion.
Like Essink, Jensen said the barrel race is his favorite.“It's fun and my horse is really good at it,” he said.
His horse, Dolly, is a 20-year-old quarter horse that he has grown up with.
He first started riding when he was nine years old and he rides once or twice a week now.He said speed is not more important than practice.
“You have to be agile on your horse and know your horse and how it runs,” he said. “Sometimes you have to slow it down and do it right instead of just being fast,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest cheers at the fair went out to Shaun Zander for her victory in the mystery race and Lintz for winning pole bending after an earlier fall in the arena.
Page 2 of 2 - Lintz's barrel race pattern went awry and when her horse turned at the fence, Lintz slid off and landed on the ground with a thump near the grandstand bleachers.
A few moments later, she brushed herself off and climbed back on the saddle.
She finished the barrel pattern and came back to win the 10 and under division of pole bending.Her mother, Angie Lintz of Syacuse, said Gracie practices barrels all summer and competes at regional events two or three times per month.
“It's the first time she has fallen, but she always runs pretty hard,” Lintz said.
Alice Auer said getting back on the horse helped build confidence for Lintz and provides instruction to the horse.
“We want the horses to know they have to complete the patterns and the 4-Hers to know they can finish. They are handling a thousand-pound animal and it's a huge achievement for these little ones,” she said.
Other high point winners were Ashlyn Miller, juniors; and Allison Hinrichsen, intermediate.