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The annual Cleveland County Horse Show, hosted the weekend prior to the county fair is a favorite for many in the horse community. It’s also great entertainment for spectators or for anyone who wants to know more about the sport.
“One of the really neat things about this show is that it’s free which is really unusual in horse shows,” said Amber Spires, who helps put on the show. “The other thing is that it pays premiums which is really good because these kids pay money to go to a lot of these shows and other shows usually don’t pay premiums.”
Spires, along with Lisa Carpenter, is a co-leader of the Trailblazer 4-H Horse Club. The club has about 25 members all of who will be participating this year, she said.
Attendance was down a bit last year due to the pandemic with 40 entrants. This year, 55 competitors have signed up, according to Sandy McClure, fair board secretary and Cleveland County fairgrounds staffer.
“The Fair Board runs this show with help from Sandy McClure in the office,” Spires said.
“This show has English and jumping and Western Pleasure so it’s very visitor friendly,” Spires said. “There is a nice spectator area. The 4-H kids are very friendly and willing to answer questions and a lot of them will let people pet their horses.”
In addition to youth divisions there are open divisions for adult entrants.
Kelly Bussell, owner/operator of Blue Line Stables said this is her first year to enter the Cleveland County Horse Show. She will also have two students participating.
“Horse shows tend to be expensive for students. This is actually a free fair so it doesn’t cost anything to enter, and if they place first, they get a cash incentive,” Bussell said. “It’s a good place to network with people for local lessons or trainers.”
For Susan Curran and her granddaughter Sybil Fuqua, the annual horse show is a relaxed atmosphere for participants and spectators alike.
“I started back in the ‘80s when I had my first horse here in Oklahoma,” Curran said. “Somebody told me about the horse show.”
Curran rode her horse “quite a distance” to the fairgrounds, rode him in the horse show and then rode home. Back then, participants didn’t have to register ahead of time and could just show up. While registration is required ahead of time for participants these days, it’s still a relaxed atmosphere with free entry for spectators and no advance tickets required.
“We’ll have kids that this is their very first show and we’ll have experienced kids that show every weekend and they still love this show and the county fair,” Spires said.
Fuqua, who is now 17, has been riding most of her life.
“Grandma put me on a saddle when I was really young,” she said. “I got a certain age and started asking for a pony.”
Entering the horse show is a favorite activity for the teen.
“It’s fun. Competing is fun,” Fuqua said. “There’s nothing better than having a blue ribbon in your hand, but even just riding a horse every day is so fun. It’s like you’re one with nature. It’s very soothing.”
The teen said there’s a lot of support at the Cleveland County Horse Show.
“Once a year all the horse people come together at the Cleveland County show,” Fuqua said.
Curran and her horse, Kira, became famous locally, in part for winning a barrel race at age 33, which is considered old for a horse.
“He probably has the record for entering the county horse show the most times,” she said.
Even with all of the events she’s entered over the years, Curran said the county horse show is one of her favorites. Kira has passed on, but she and her granddaughter share Grace, a Morgon and each at some time have won the high combined and trail event.
“It’s fun! We always have fun,” Curran said. “A lot of people come back year after year so you know them and there’s a lot of camaraderie. You don’t pay an entry fee but you can win money so there’s no pressure.”
Bussell said the county horse show fits well with her philosophy.
“My main goal is for my students to realize that horsemanship is important, and they have to make the animals feel appreciated,” she said. “What I like about this show is that it’s fun and takes the politics of horse showing out of the picture. It gives riders with different abilities the chance to show.”
In addition to the age groups of youth competitors, you can also enter the “walk-trot” classification or the “walk-trot-canter” classification regardless of whether you are in the junior or senior age group.
“If you’re a newer rider, and you’re not comfortable cantering in a ring with a lot of other people, you can still do the walk-trot class,” Spires said.
The Cleveland County Horse show starts at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 28 at the fairgrounds, 615 E. Robinson St., Norman. The show runs until the competition is complete, usually around 7 p.m. that evening.
“We are very grateful that we have this show and that they add this extra weekend so that we can have it,” Spires said. The fair board is very good to us.”