Dolores riders show their skills at the fair

Jasper Breitenbach prepares to compete in the English riding event at the Montezuma County Fair on Tuesday.

The first morning of the Montezuma County fair was perfectly sunny and clear as three teenage equestrians from Dolores prepared for their English riding event.

Looking alert and sharply dressed in pressed riding gear, Erin Ryan, Jasper Breitenbach, and Cameron Elder idled their horses and kept a close eye on their coach, Susan Noble, for last-minute advice and encouragement.

"She won't listen!" Cameron said.

A pair of horses misbehaved, leaning into each other for fun, side pushing and whickering.

"Go and curl her and make her mind you," suggested Coach Noble, and the horse responded, expertly brought under control by the young rider.

"These kids practice four to five times per week in the summer," Noble says. "They've done a tremendous job."

English riding requires calm control, trust and correct position.

"If the rider gets nervous, the horse will get nervous. They can sense fear," Noble says. "You overcome nerves and gain confidence with practice and going to shows."

True to the amicable culture of the English, the young ladies have a very polite and proper manner.

"It's fun - a little more complicated than Western riding," said Erin, 15, from her horse, Stetson. "It's more challenging."

Her dad, Daniel Ryan, smiled with pride.

"She's showing three horses. One was not enough. It takes a lot of self-discipline."

Jasper seemed right at home on Robin, a lanky quarterhorse at 16.1 hands, and the 13-year old took first place.

"I've done better in English than showmanship," she said. "I like it because you get to ride all day and watch each other ride with a judge. The trick is staying calm and relaxed; otherwise the horse will get nervous with you."

Erin Ryan competes in the English riding event at the Montezuma County Fair. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Erin Ryan competes in the English riding event at the Montezuma County Fair.