CROWN POINT — There’s something about the chemistry between a human and a horse that was on display Sunday for the final 20 classes in the Western Horse Show at the Lake County Fair.
“We use them for therapy,” said Tracy Noorlag, of Crown Point. “They’re so peaceful and calm and loving. They’re also extremely intelligent.”
Noorlag’s daughter, Ashlyn Paris, of Griffith, was aboard Moana in the hunt seat pleasure division.
Contestants could take part in 64 divisions over the three days of the horse show. Judging these entries was Kelly Nelson-Sassi of Monee, Illinois, marking her 17th year in the role.
“I like the whole atmosphere,” said Nelson-Sassi, who trains horses and teaches horsemanship.
As the judge explained, entries are judged on performance and confirmation, or the way the horse is built.
“They’re also judged on how the rider presents the horse,” said Nelson-Sassi, adding that timing is a factor in some events.
Freddie Anderson, of Hebron, who raises horses, said they’re “fun for the kids,” who were entered in the fair’s western pleasure division.
Noorlag said her daughter, now 24, has been riding for 15 years. Many contestants have years in the saddle.
Stacy Patterson of Coal City, Illinois, has been riding for 25 years. Standing beside Jaxx, a quarter horse, Patterson noted, “I like the training aspect. We train for the shows, and it’s rewarding.”
Horses, Patterson said, “have a special place in my heart. I’ve always loved them, and riding is so enjoyable.”
Dressed in chaps and other western gear, Todd Hentschel, of Highland, was saddling up Sarge, another quarter horse.
“I’ve been riding all my life,” said Hentschel, who is 34. “I like to compete, and I like horses.”
Sunday’s events included horsemanship, walk-trot, barrel races, dash for cash and flag races. Some competitions pitted those 18-and-under, while other events involved riders ages 39-and-over. Prizes included trophies, ribbons and money.
Carrie Anderson, of Crown Point, had just picked up a blue ribbon for equitation, or riding a pattern with different maneuvers around cones. The mother of five, who has been riding and coming to the fair since she was 8, was riding Sheza Fancy Hotrod, also known as Hottie.
For Anderson, the key to success is, “practice, practice and practice. I’m always riding, if I can. There’s a saying, if you’re not practicing today, someone else is.”
Anderson started in 4-H and then continued her love affair with horses. Today, she owns three horses and two miniature horses.
“I enjoy their gentle nature,” said Anderson, noting that Hottie competed in other events. “They give you everything they have.”
Anderson said regular practicing can be a challenge, “but every day is a new day.”
Now at age 14, Hottie can live up to 25 years.
“We’re both middle-aged at this point,” Anderson said. "But, Hottie’s got a lot of good shows left in her.”