By Rowan Potzler, SGI Student Reporter

Ah, the Erie County Fair. The yearly gathering of rides, animal shows, and prizes given away in booths. Two weeks of childish fun, all to forget yourself and enjoy it at the Hamburg Fairgrounds. A nightmare for parents trying to get through the choked traffic. A wonderland to children, seeing everything as so much bigger than it really is.

“I would describe the fair to be a time of the year in our little villager’s life where we are all excited about the same things. The deep fried food, the small little shops, the animals shows, the little shows and games. The fair brings us together nicely as a community to where we are all happy and excited about the same thing each year. Children and parents go to bond and to have fun, couples go to spend time together and fall in love,” said Gabi Kester, incoming SGI junior, looking back on the fair last year. “It’s an amazing time of year that everybody I know looks forward to so that they can unwind and relax and enjoy themselves.”

“It’s a great place to get away and have fun on spectacular rides, for two weeks of the summer,” Hannah Bergner, also an up-and-coming junior at SGI, said. In the past years, she would show horses at the Erie County Fair. Not this year, though. Her trainer is still recovering from an injury, a horse kick to the ribs. Her trainer’s doing fine now, though, still recovering but stable. (That was not a horse pun.)

“We’d have to prepare the day before to make sure we have all the necessary equipment to show and we need to give the horses baths. We also need to fix up their manes and tails to make them show ready,” Hannah continued to talk about what they had to do for the fair itself. “Then, early in the morning the next day, we double and triple check everything to make sure we’re ready. After that, we load up the horses in the trailers to  make our journey to the fair.

She continued to explain what else needs to be done to prepare: “When we get there, we unload the horses first,” she said. “ We bring them to their assigned stalls that the fair has provided. Their names are Luke, Garth, and Rio. We use those three because they’re the most well-trained for showing.”

Hannah explained that Garth and Luke can show both Western and English, but Rio can’t show English. “We get the tack and food unloaded and put them into their tack stalls, also in the barns,” she noted. “We’re in the same area as our 4-H group. Mine’s the Hillside Riders, so we all help each other out during the three show days. We set up in our areas, because during our time there, we’re judged on our decorations in our part of the barn and how clean the barn is while we’re there. We get awards for that.”

After they’re done setting up, they wait for the next day, the showing day! “Last year, we had the English and Western divisions on the same day and it went almost all day, but we’ve changed it in 4H this year because showing all day was a lot of work,” Hannah said. “It’s safer now to show the two divisions on different days.”

When asked the differences between English and Western riding, she explained, “The English saddle is smaller and easier to post. Posting is where you move your body up and down to the horse’s rhythm. When you ride, you’re riding in in a more extended stride and thus are going faster. The strides in English are walk, trot, and canter, and gallop in special classes.” Because the saddle is lighter, the horse has more freedom of movement.

Hannah went on to explain that in Western, the seat saddle is larger and you sit to the rhythms of the horse (no posting) and the saddle is large to help you do that. “Riding is way more controlled and slower, even though the basics of English are basically the same,” she said. “The strides are walk, jog, and lope in the Western style, and there’s usually no galloping.” The Western style originated in the West, hence the name. It evolved as cowboys rode horses to herd cattle on the plains.

“It takes years of hard work to train a show horse, working almost every day. English is easier to train than Western because English more direct. The Western style uses more legs to steer than reins,” Hannah said.

It’s a shame Hannah can’t show this year, but hopefully she’ll be able to next year. This year’s Erie County Fair is coming up soon, running from Aug. 8-19. (The Cattaraugus County Fair is sooner, July 30 to Aug. 5.)

Be sure to check out all the animal shows at both fairs and think about all the hard work that goes into them!