Heather Apenhorst's needlework project was a winner at the Fillmore County Fair.
Heather Apenhorst's needlework project was a winner at the Fillmore County Fair.
Horses come first in the lives of Heather and Jackie Apenhorst, even before the Minnesota State Fair, but the sisters will still be able to make an appearance at the state fairgrounds with their horses in September.

"I'm taking my horse Chippy to the horse training show," said Bloomfield Cloverleaves 4-H member Heather Apenhorst, whose gaming horse, Chippy, is almost ready to take the training show ring at the Minnesota 4-H State Horse Show, held after the close of the state fair. "I have to ground drive him, and when I get done, I'm so tired because you have to stand behind the horse and walk or trot it...all that running to keep up."

Dusty will also show off his riding behavior for his handler, Heather's older sister and fellow Cloverleaves member Jackie, who is in the state lineup for the horse show in the riding category.

"I hope I do good in my classes and I hope my horse doesn't freak out at the camera guy like last year," said Jackie. "I didn't place, but I did everything right - there are 30 to 40 kids in my class. I'm nervous because I don't know how my horse will act in a new environment...when you get in the ring, you either have a good go, or you mess up. It's different every time, but I like warming up for the horse show at 5 a.m."

While the girls each did well in various non-livestock divisions at the Fillmore County Fair, they're planning on missing the state fair because they help their parents, Lynn and Lisa Apenhorst, of Etna, with the family's hitch of Clydesdales - cleaning, loading, leading and showing them - at what is, according to Lisa, "the biggest draft horse show of the year" in Britt, Iowa.

Jackie earned grand champion in needle arts, reserve grand champion in home environment and honorable mention in photography, but it's obvious that she and Heather are just plain horse-crazy.

"I have grand champion horse-related poster going on to the state horse show - it's about the Bashkir Curly, a horse that is hypoallergenic - and I got horse training grand champion, and Dusty is in the state fair lineup for state horse show with riding," said Jackie.

Heather's county fair entries were numerous, and in quilting, she earned division champion, in photography, a blue ribbon, honorable mention in home environment, a red ribbon in horse-related, was division champion in needle arts, got honorable mention in the style revue purchased clothing and division champion in constructed clothing. However, the biggest award she received was "horse training reserve champion...I'm taking Chippy to horse training show."

This summer has been a very, very, very busy one for the Apenhorsts - they've taken their fair entries to the Fillmore, Olmsted and Freeborn fairs, and between chores and preparing for draft horse shows, the girls work with their own horses.

"I have to keep practicing more - I can't just show," said Jackie. "It's a lot harder competition, and my horse needs a lot more practice. I'm farther down the fair list, so when I get there, hopefully, we'll do our best."

Heather's got improving her horse gaming time on her mind, as well as making sure she has all her equipment is ready to go. "I've just been training my horse. I didn't place last year, but I had better gaming times. You have to make sure you have everything in line and ready to go for the show."

The girls enjoy getting out of school for the state horse show only one week after school starts, earning ribbons, having pizza parties, decorating stalls, and cheering with the Fillmore County 4-H horse competitors and their families when another Fillmore County horse show participant is in the ring.

"When we're up during the state horse show, we play cards, spend time with our friends, talking with people we haven't seen in a year," explained Jackie. "I'm looking forward to having a good time, even though we go to bed late and get up early. It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun at the same time."

Heather is just simply pleased about "having a horse up at the state fair. The fun thing about taking a horse up there is being with other kids."