PALMETTO -- There was a mule.
There was a miniature horse.
There were ponies.
There were regular size horses.
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And there was also one boy competing among 21 girls.
All in all, the horse show Sunday that wrapped up the 2012 Manatee County Fair was symbolic of the entire fair, said Nancy Morris, superintendent of the horse barn.
“Diversity of breeds,” Morris said.
“And maybe the best weather we ever had,” added Karen Ciemniecki, Haile Middle School’s agriculture teacher.
Dan West, the fair’s manager, said Sunday the total fair attendance won’t be be tallied until today, but that the results should be impressive due to 11 days of mostly sunshine.
“It’s in the top five of all-time attendance marks easy and probably in the top three,” West said, noting that the all-time record attendance is 155,000 for 11 days, set in 2006.
“This has been a fantastic fair,” West added. “Our vendors are all happy.”
Last year, much of the fair was freezing cold.
But rain or shine probably wouldn’t have mattered to Cole Carson, 11, who stole Sunday’s final day at the fair with four first-place ribbons and one second place in the horse arena.
Cole, from Palmetto, was the only boy competing in the horse show Sunday with 21 girls.
“I hope I can show the girlsthat this isn’t just a sport for girls,” said Cole, a Lincoln Middle School sixth grader.
“I’m sure he also likes being around the girls,” said a smiling Tonya Lex, mother of 14-year-old competitor Tabetha Lex.
Cole earned four blue ribbons, including junior grooming and conditioning, registered pony and grade mare, walk-trot pleasure and walk-trot equitation. He took second in junior showmanship.
Cole was smooth as silk with Penny, his gorgeous, 3-year-old, well-behaved paint.
“Cole practices with Penny constantly and always wants to do better than the last time,” said his mother, Gail. “He wants to compete in the World Pinto Show in Western Pleasure riding. I think this will be his lifelong passion.”
While Cole was Sunday’s individual star, the two-week stars may have been Haile Middle School’s agricultural team.
“We rocked,” Ciemniecki said.
Haile had six kids showing dairy, 15 showing swine, three on the plant team and even had one of their rabbits, Q-Tip, take best opposite breed in the rabbit show.
Haile also had the fair’s heaviest pig, at 358 pounds, and sold their steer, “Little Man.”
“I think this year’s fair showed how active Manatee County’s 4-H and FFA organizations are,” Ciemniecki said.
Oh, as for that mule, his name is Peppertree, Isn’t He Wild, and he was shown by Sierra Oliver, 17 of Lakewood Ranch High, who took first in halter and second in walk-trot pleasure.
“He’s usually good, but on Sunday he was cranky,” Oliver said.
If Cole was the favorite human at the horse show, the star animal was probably Remi, the 31-inch-tall miniature horse shown by Shannon Kehoe, 15, of Myakka City.
Shannon won Reserve Grand Champion Gelding with Remi.
Remi might be the only horse in the world that “holds legs” with human family members when he is happy, family members said.
Don’t try to understand. Apparently, it’s a horsey thing.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.
HORSE SHOW RESULTS
Grand Champion Mare: Tabetha Lex
Reserve Champion Mare: Cole Carson
Grand Champion Gelding: Brianna Bronson
Reserve Champion Gelding: Shannon Kehoe
Grand Champion Junior Showmanship: Jordan Olson
Reserve Champion Junior Showmanship: Cole Carson
Grand Champion Senior Showmanship: Beth Ciemniecki
Reserve Champion Senior Showmanship: Shelby Smith