Competing in state fair horse shows can be nerve-wracking

Christina Kooiman, 23, with her horse Beau before competition
Christina Kooiman, 23, and her horse Beau competed in the Half-Arabian Hunter Pleasure show the first Friday afternoon of the Minnesota State Fair. Photo by Iris Garcia Salamanca, Lisa Fan and Franny Alfano
“It didn’t feel weird to be competing but it did feel strange to have so many people watching." -- Christina Kooiman, 23, of Shakopee

While most people at the Minnesota State Fair were relaxing and trying the newest on-a-stick creation its first Friday, Christina Kooiman was nervously brushing her horse in the Horse Barn.

Kooiman, 23, of Shakopee, was focused on getting MRF Bostonstar, otherwise known as her horse Beau, ready for the Half-Arabian Hunter Pleasure show. Arabian is the name of a breed of horse.

The hunt seat competition is based on the tradition of fox hunting. Nowadays it’s for the horses to show off their manners and for the riders to show off their ability.

According to Angela Rasmussen, Kooiman’s trainer, a good majority of the people who compete in this show, for amateur, or non-professional, riders are teens. Horse shows continue the entire fair. Check out the state fair’s website to find out more.

Beau is a new horse for Kooiman. She only started riding him a week ago, yet she feels comfortable with him. This is Kooiman’s first year competing in horse shows, but she has been riding horses since she was ten years old.

“My parents lived next to a big stable, so I started taking lessons when I was young,” said Kooiman.

People packed inside the Lee and Rose Warner Coliseum for the Friday afternoon Hunt seat competitions. Upbeat music was blasting and the horses trotted along. The riders were focused and patient and the horses were alert and obedient. The judges asked to see the horses walk, trot and trot at a quick pace.

Kooiman received fifth place out of six. Afterward, she said she felt the competition went well, better than she thought it would go. Because she is so competitive now, Kooiman said she knows she will keep improving in the future.

“It’s a passion,” said her trainer, Angela Rasmussen, 22. “It makes you feel good, like you accomplished something. The more you excel, the more you want to do more.”

For many people riding horses is a stress reliever or a form of therapy. Horses can help with emotional problems, Rasmussen said. “The horse won’t talk back,” she said with a laugh.

It was Rasmussen who got Kooiman into competing. After she brought Kooiman to a couple of small, non-competitive shows, she knew she was ready for the bigger shows like the state fair.

“It didn’t feel weird to be competing but it did feel strange to have so many people watching,” Kooiman said. “I liked the feel of competing and trying to do my best.”