Horses favorite of De Soto sisters’ many 4-H projects
De Soto sisters Clarissa and Julia Shields are doing a little bit of everything at this year's Johnson County Fair.
But from a list including sheep shows, public speaking, foods, crafts and dog shows, showing their Tennessee walking horses -- a blue roan named Betsy Ross and a white-blazed black horse named Dolly -- is their favorite.
For one, they're the fastest.
"I like horses better than sheep," said Julia, 8. "I like to ride them, and I like going fast."
Clarissa, 12, and Julia are two of about 550 Johnson County youth participating in 4-H projects of all kinds at this year's County Fair. The fair, which runs through Saturday in Gardner, also features a carnival, parade, music concerts, and the popular demolition derby.
"There's a lot to see," said Roxann Kinkade, Johnson County Extension Office spokeswoman. "It's certainly a family event."
Some of the best-known fair competitions include livestock events and tractor pulls, but Kinkade said youth could be involved in many other ways, whether they lived on a farm or not.
"So many people have this perception that it's a rural thing," Kinkade said. "There are a lot of 4-H kids out there. They do all kinds of projects."
Kinkade rattled off classes like rocketry, clothing construction, photography and woodworking. She said one 4-H'er was even rebuilding a motorcycle for a 4-H project this year.
Boarding is an option for youth who want to raise livestock or keep horses for shows but don't have the space at home, Kinkade said.
The Shields' have enough room to keep Betsy Ross, Dolly, five other horses and a pack of the rat terriers they raise at their home.
They board their sheep across town at the King's residence.
Thanks to a horse-loving grandfather, both sisters had their own ponies before they were even a year old.
Clarissa started getting involved in horse shows when she was four or five, she said.
This year's County fair will be Julia's first show ever. She had several scheduled earlier in the summer but they all got rained out, so she's "kind of nervous," she said.
This year, both girls are showing their horses in a variety of events, including saddle-type halter and pleasure, walk-trot pleasure and horsemanship, and showmanship.
Clarissa said the shows were fun and exciting but that she didn't really get nervous.
"I don't worry about winning when I go into the show," Clarissa said. "I just worry about having fun and doing my best."
Clarissa and Julia are members of the De Soto Pioneer 4-H Club and the Johnson County 4-H Horse Club.
Many 4-H'ers just board their horses and do the shows, Clarissa said, but all of that comes after one of her favorite things about working with the animals.
"There's like a whole other entire side, too," she said.
Raising horses from foals is a whole new challenge, Clarissa said. Some of the neatest things are watching the horses grow, learning what's needed to keep them strong and healthy, and later helping train them.
Amy Shields, the girls' mother, helps a lot with training and supervising Clarissa and Julia with their horses.
Shields, a lifetime horse-lover, enjoys it but said sometimes the sheep can be a relief -- because they're slower and safe enough for her daughters to tend them on their own.
For more information about the fair or 4-H, call the Johnson County Extension Office at (913) 764-6300 or visit the Web at www.oznet.ksu.edu/johnson.