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OTTUMWA — Think of it, organizers said, as a test run. A chance for the kinks to be worked out before most county fairs.

Saturday’s invitational horse show was a couple weeks late for the Wapello County Fair, of course, but there’s still the 4-H Expo to go. Fittingly, the horses and their owners were on the 4-H Expo grounds Saturday.

“This is something we did a long time ago when I used to show,” said Aaron Angle, one of the organizers. “I would kind of like to bring this back.”

As a test run, Saturday showed promise. A total of 17 young competitors turned out, coming from as far away as Tama Count for the chance to show their stuff. Mike Orman, another organizer, was pleased. There was some mud left from Friday’s storms and a few puddles to dodge, but fewer than you might have guessed.

“With the rain and everything, I think we have a pretty good turnout,” Orman said.

“I’m really impressed we’ve got this big a turnout,” Angle agreed.

It quickly became apparent that calling the competitors owners is, if not technically wrong, a term that misses the mark in important ways. The show ring’s key isn’t about the horses. Nor is it about the trainers who led them through their paces. It’s about the bond between the two.

When the horse trusts the person, it will willingly do what is asked in the ring. When the trainer trusts the horse, the bond allows the two to communicate without words. It’s not telepathy, but something that may be as close as humans can come to it.

Learning how to create the bond between person and horse can start early. Teagen Snyder said she started riding when she was 2 years old. Now she has both the experience and confidence to show the horses.

“This will be my second year. I just like participating,” she said.

Organizers hope that, with a bit of luck and the support of a lot of volunteers, events like Saturday’s show will help Snyder and other young people build their experience and their bonds with the horses, leading to even better results in the ring and in life.

“Like Aaron said,” Orman said, “this is a project he has been wanting to bring back for a while.”

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Here's a look at the show through the lens of the Courier reporter's camera. Click here to go to our photo purchase page.

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Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.