- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

ALTAMONT, Ill. (AP) - Fourteen-year-old Rachel Higgs has been riding since she could walk, according to her father, Eric Higgs.

It’s a family tradition that goes back to her grandfather.

“Her grandpa (Bob Sperry) has ridden for his whole life. My wife, (Rachel’s mother) Tami, also showed, and Rachel has picked up and carried on that torch,” said Eric Higgs.

The Dieterich teen was working with Simon, an 8-year-old 16-2 Paint bred horse during a 4-H horse clinic at the Effingham County Fairgrounds on June 11. She competes in approved Illinois Paint Shows.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Eric Higgs.

On June 11 youngsters learned the work that goes into competing successfully.

Dana Grupe, Effingham County 4-H Horse superintendent, provided an estimated 25 young people between the ages of 5 and 18 the rules of riding horses, tack, horsemanship and attire.

“The younger kids learn how to tack up their horse,” said Joy McAllister, of Altamont, who attended with her son, Lane McAllister, 10. “They learn what tack is acceptable and what tack is illegal. They also learn how to properly groom their horses so they have pretty tails and long manes.”

Grupe stressed it’s not just about the horse and how well it is groomed and handled. It’s also about how the rider looks.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of having your clothes clean and pressed and fitting well,” said Grupe.

New this year is a rule for protective headgear. Although Effingham County has required helmets for several years for the 4-H Show, now all horse riding participants are required to wear a helmet.

The youngsters also learned what judges are looking for and how to get their horses to perform accordingly.

“Horsemanship is based on how well you ride,” said Grupe. “It’s based on how well you look in the saddle and how well your horse does on the pattern. The horse is your tool. It’s about how you utilize that tool.”

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Source: Effingham Daily News, https://bit.ly/1Pqaxfh

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Information from: Effingham Daily News, https://www.effinghamdailynews.com

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