Niles girl, 16, takes 3 top equestrian honors at youth fair
By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- In her fifth year showing and riding horses at the Berrien County Youth Fair, Jennifer Hiers of Niles made a solid impact at this year's Fair.
Having won three Grand Champion awards, however, winning the showmanship competition is what sticks to her mind the most.
Hiers, who is 16, said she has worked with horses for the last eight years.
She eliminated competition from 20 to 25 other riders through a three round process of elimination in each of the categories she won.
The categories were showmanship, western halter and western pleasure.
Hiers said the competition was fierce in all of the categories she competed in.
And, her competitors, many of whom she competes against at open horse shows in Michigan and Indiana throughout the year, are getting better every year.
But the 16-year-old enjoys the competition.
Hiers, who will be a junior at Niles High School this year, rides every day at home.
She has spent countless of hours preparing for this year's Fair and winning the showmanship competition was special.
Her show horse P.T, a paint, was bought from a show horse trainer.
But aside from that, Hiers does all the training on her own.
She said the hardest part of the showmanship competition is memorizing the pattern each participant is given by the judges.
The pattern, which the contestants get 15 minutes to memorize, is the route in which they need to lead their horse.
He is glad to see her countless hours of hard work materialize into this years three awards.
Competing at the Fair, however, is just one aspect of being at the Fair for Hiers.
Hiers said apart from showing and competing, the Fair is also a good place to catch up with people she hasn't seen since last year's Fair.
But she said it's also a good time to make new friends.
Judy Hiers, Jennifer's mother, is excited about her daughter's victories.
One challenge remains for Hiers at the Fair, and that is today's Sweepstakes competition.
The Grand Champions of all animals shown in competition during the Fair will gather and show six different animals.
That means Hiers will have to show, beef, pigs, sheep, goats and other animals she has no experience in showing.
Not sounding too confident about her chances to run away with the sweepstakes award, Hiers said she did practice showing beef on Thursday.
By no means intending to give up before the battle has been fought.