Horse Driving growing in popularity at fair

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Glenda Bellio says there are no words to describe the adrenaline rush of horse driving.

"You just have to try it yourself," she said. "It's an addiction."

That's why, despite the cost, time and effort involved in the sport, driving is growing in popularity.

"Every year, we manage to double the number of entrants," said Bellio, the organizer of Sunday's High Desert Classic at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.

The third annual event attracted drivers from Moffat and Routt counties, Rifle and even Grand Junction.

Delaney Bensler, a 9-year-old first-time rider from Steamboat Springs, was one of them. She typically rides horses but was excited to try driving with her new miniature, Splash.

"(It's different because), well, you have a carriage and the reins are longer and you don't ride the horse," she said. "It's not very hard."

Roger and Margaret Smith, a Craig couple in their 70s, felt similar. After years of raising horses, Margaret finally got Charlie, the Haflinger she has been wanting. That's when she decided she and her husband should try driving.

"I think we're the oldest pair here," she said. "I'm exhausted because I'm watching the ones in the front and the ones on the side as they go by."

Seven classes throughout the day separated adult from youth riders. Smaller breeds with easy-entry carts competed against Percheron teams with full-sized carriages. The arena judge directed competitors through the ring.

Bellio said if the show gets bigger, carts and carriages may be separated and the rules for wheels and other factors may become more strict.

Roger had some trouble with the judge's commands. One class asks drivers to walk and trot their horses at three different paces. "I didn't know what they were talking about so I just followed everyone else."

The couple rode together in the Western pleasure class in the morning and took fourth place. "For our first one, I think that's darn good," Margaret said.

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