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Small Hoof Prints Big Rewards

We had horses since we were married. Went riding and showed our Appaloosas and then miniature horses. After about 14 years of marriage we adopted a little boy, began the process of adoption again. On our 20th wedding anniversary we got a phone call from the agency so we went from one child to 4 within a year. All the children have some form of mild disabilities, but that didn't stop us from showing our horses at the Clay County Fair in Spencer, IA.

We had been showing horses there since 1984 and this was 1998. We packed up a herd of horses and kids and off we went. Every year would be the same and with the kids being 5 years old they all also began showing alongside us. Because we downsized, literally, to the miniatures, the horses were perfect size for the kids and the horse's tolerance of the children's disabilities was remarkable even the colts could be trusted with kids.

The possibilities that showing the miniatures gave them were endless. They learned a work ethic, kindness, patience and an opportunity to bloom as they shared with fair goers their experiences with their animals. The children got older and were able to participate in 4-H.  Showing the miniatures gave them the chance to experience inclusion. They received many placings including several grands over the years, even in showmanship.

I recall a woman sitting behind me on the bleachers as we sat waiting for the showmanship class to be over. I overheard her say to the person next to her "look at that miniature horse out there, what are they good for". Then the judge made his decision and the grand champion was announced, it just happened to be our son and his little miniature gelding. I wanted to turn around and say to her "that's what they are good for".  

The little horses gave the children a sense of accomplishment that they probably wouldn't have gotten in another venue. So many things like sports and academics are so unfair but I have to commend 4-H because you can give a little kid with disabilities a little chicken, a bunny, or a little miniature horse and for just a little while they can be like anybody else.  

We have been showing horses since 1984 with the exception of this year when COVID hit.  NO FAIR AND SAD US. They have had many experiences, both good and bad, many happy and some sad. Loves and losses and the knowledge that life can be fleeting and we treasure all the lessons it holds.
By Reta Janssen