Hoofin’ it at the fairPublished 11:30pm Monday, August 13, 2012
The first full day of the Berrien County Youth Fair got under way Monday, and even a few clouds and a little rain couldn’t cease the day’s activities.
People of all ages gathered to watch young riders and their horses compete in the equestrian event. The ages of the participants vary, and they all hail from different clubs around the Michiana area.
For 19-year-old Dana Del Muro, who represents the Al-Bar Ranch 4H Club in Niles, this competition is nothing new.
“I’ve been doing this since I was about 10, so almost nine years,” Del Muro said.
However, this year is a little different.
Joining her for competition is 5-year-old Onyx, participating in his first fair.
“He’s more of an English horse, so we do a little better in those events,” said Del Muro, who had her previous horse for 12 years.
Del Muro, who was 2011 fair queen, said she has loved riding since childhood.
“I had some friends and they had horses, so I started taking lessons,” she said. “I just enjoy being with my horse all the time.”
Del Muro divides her time between work and school, but still manages to squeeze in her love for horses.
This year was especially trying with the arrival of her new horse.
“We got him in February and he’d never been saddled before, so we sent him to a trainer for 30 days and then I got him back,” said Del Muro, who spends from three to four hours a day with Onyx.
“Training is long. You train every day; there’s no stopping.”
Equestrianism involves several disciplines, depending on the horse. Del Muro and Onyx participate in the “classic riding” activities, which include halter, showmanship, hunt seat and English pleasure. These events emphasize form and presentation.
“It’s pressure and release, so he knows what to do when I want him to do it,” Del Muro said.
Preparation for these events, Del Muro said, involves “washing, lots of time washing and braiding. Practice, practice, practice!”
When she talks about horseback riding, Del Muro’s passion shows.
For her, it’s not just a fun summer activity, but also a commitment to a craft.
How long of a commitment?
Del Muro responds with a smile, “Probably the rest of my life.”