Alicen Jennings tied her horse, Harley, to a trailer and held one hand under its mouth while stroking above its nose with the other before one of her six events at Sunday's Cole County 4-H and FFA Horse Show.
The 15-year-old Jefferson City girl spends time every day taking care of the American paint horse, and she could tell he was tired. But, win or lose, she was ready to compete.
"I'm just going to do the best I can," she said. But competing in horse shows, among other things, has taught her to be a gracious loser.
Still, she's had her share of successes. After talking with a reporter, she took second place out of eight competitors in the horsemanship 13 and over category.
Sunday's annual event, held at Markway Arena in Eugene, lasted more than five hours, and featured more than 20 competitors in 50-plus events. The group of onlookers was mostly limited to family members, but show Superintendent Janice Loesch encouraged the public to come out and watch in the future.
"They work with their horse all year long," Loesch said. "They train it, they ride it. It's just spending a lot of time with that horse, to work with that horse so that the horse and rider can come to an understanding of working together."
Jennings started helping out at the competition three years ago, then started competing herself.
This year, she competed in five events with Harley and one with Rigby, her miniature horse.
She enjoys horses as a hobby and said she might consider a career such as an equine veterinarian or a breeding manager.
"You get to work every day with a partner that doesn't speak your language, but does communicate in different ways," she said.
MacKenzie Loesch, 14, Russellville, started competing in 2008.
"My uncle brought his horse out, and I said, "I'll give this a try,' and I've loved it ever since," she said.
She said it's taught her hard work and responsibility.
"It gets you more practice for life and for the future," she said, adding that she could consider a career in agriculture.