Brief, heavy rain Tuesday night didn’t dampen spirits at Addison County Fair and Field Days, and the Gymkhana horse competition got under way after a brief delay as a rainbow showed itself over the horse ring.
Among the approximately 50 entries in this year’s Gymkhana were local riders of all ages and experience levels, from pre-adolescents to people of middle age and older.
“I’ve been riding since I was five,” said MaKaila Cota, 15, of Bristol. Cota and her friend 12-year-old Madison Cummings of Brandon, both veterans of Gymkhana at Field Days, competed in the Junior division of the games Tuesday on their horses Little Bit and Disco, respectively.
The evening started off with keyhole racing, an event in which riders canter up to a keyhole-shaped set of cones, navigate the sharp turn required, and then sprint back to the gates in as short a time as possible.
Next up was barrel racing, a classic Western riding competition. Like keyhole, barrel racing requires nimbleness and poise on the part of both rider and horse, but barrel racing involves three tight turns around oil drum-size barrels, arranged in a large triangle.
Though it was exciting to see who scored highest in the different events, the real joy of watching Gymkhana was simply watching the horses and riders work together, demonstrating the time and effort put into training and practice over the past year in preparation for Fair and Field Days.
— Weyland Joyner