The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Trophies in the Ditch, but a Treasure in the Heartland

db Conard, The Quill

What do you do if you have literally hundreds of trophies and nowhere to put them? You bury them in the ditch. That was the solution a friend came up with for the material remains of years of being a top rider in the horse show circuit. It was not the trophies that had been the prize; the experiences that were now a part of her character were the real trophies.

Just recently, I had the opportunity to photograph the local county fair horseback riding events. I took several hundred photos, and had a unique opportunity to look behind the scenes at what it really takes to be a successful entry in the county fair.

When you walk behind the grandstands and just look at the equipment that it takes to get to the show you start to realize what a major family commitment it takes to bring these young people to the arena.

Mucking out stalls is a basic to the care of any horse and then there are lessons, tack, exercise, veterinarian, Ferrier, feed, medicine, truck, trailer, and that is just the short list of the basic components that sometimes result in a blue ribbon or trophies.

Teaching discipline comes as a natural part of caring for any animal, and then there is confidence that grows through the experience of competition, just learning the rules, and how to win by following them, are all ingredients that result in the kind of adults with personal tools that make any community better.

I first met Hannah when she was 6 years old as I was vacationing here in northern Minnesota. She was a little girl with an attitude that was immediately impressive. I can't help but think that she came by some of her shine through her experience as a caretaker for her horse and as a competitor.

Hannah is now nine and just last week took part in the St. Louis County Fair.

You might think that just the horse end of the fair would have been more than enough to keep her busy, but no, Hannah becomes a part of everything in her reach. A blue ribbon for her photos of her animals. A blue ribbon for her well-kept cat Dupree who could dance on a leash, and than the best stall award for her rock and roll theme for which she won a halter and a lead rope, and a slew of other awards ending with the highest points of anyone at the fair this year.

When all was said and done at the end of the week this young lady had a new collection of trophies and prizes, $44 in cash, some new tack for her horse, and 25 first places at the fair.

What I see as a Treasure in the Heartland is the wonderful qualities that are nurtured through the process of competition in things like the 4-H Clubs and county fairs.

The gold is the kids, like this little girl, who will become a person so much more capable in life because of the experiences her family exposed her to.

She has gained lessons which taught responsibility and dedication as basics for her life.

Perhaps the bottom line is not the horses or the years of work and dedication, or the prizes and trophies, but the supportive family it takes, working together.

Because of that, Hannah has hundreds of lessons on what it takes to succeed in life and puts value on the lessons and not on the prize. She treasures what she has learned and may have a simple solution on what to do with all the trophies.

She shines in her youth and there is no doubt in my mind that she will shine in her adult life as well.