The whinny of horses mingled with the love songs of country singer Chris LeDoux seemed the perfect setting for a day at the county fair.
Dressed in their best cowboy and cowgirl duds, participants led horses by the reins around the Moffat County Fairgrounds on Saturday for the showmanship competition.
Unlike horsemanship, where the animal is judged, showmanship is a demonstration of the overall ability of a horse handler. Judges score contestants based on how well a horse responds to commands and the overall appearance of the animal.
Wanda Ely was one of the participants waiting patiently to show her horse, M.D., or Model Individual.
"It's really the judge judging you," Ely said. "It's not very easy."
Tammie Delaney of Hayden said her whole family gets into the act of training and showing horses, which is what Ely enjoys about the horse competitions. While caring for an animal teaches her children lessons in responsibility, the sport keeps the family on an even playing field.
"You can hike or bike, but then the kids are always trying to keep up," she said. "When you're on a horse, everyone can be together."
4-H member Clayton Pearce was surprised to win first place Saturday in the showmanship competition in his age category. His horse, Calico, a workhorse turned show horse, has come a long way since Pearce began training him more than a year ago, he said.
With two hours of riding a day and another hour of training after that, Pearce's beaming smile was proof of the gratification that a win brings.
"He used to kick and buck people," he said petting Calico. "Now, he's really gentle and he'll let you do about anything with him."
In addition to horse showing, Pearce plans to participate in woodworking, breeding beef, sewing and rifle shooting at this year's Moffat County Fair.
Despite his busy week ahead, Pearce said his favorite event is showing his horse. He'll get a ribbon from 4-H officials for his efforts this year.
"Last year we got buckles," he said, bummed to miss out on that prize. "It's OK. I'm glad I got first."
Saturday's Western competitions preceded the English-style shows Sunday.
The English and Western division are distinguished primarily based on the tack used and the riding style and purpose. Tack includes saddles, bridles, bits and other accessories that a rider uses.
Debbie Dunaway said horses know the difference when a trainer changes the tack.
Dunaway's 7-year-old daugther Holly was in line waiting to show her horse Saturday; and the duo said they would return Sunday for the horse-driving contest.
Holly's horse, Speedy, has only tried pulling a cart twice before the competition, but that prospect wasn't daunting to the pair.
"I like the horse part," Holly said. "I don't care if I win or lose. I like playing dress up with my horse."