Success at Grundy County Fair

By: Andreanna Haritopoulos

      The roosters crowed at the crack of dawn on July 3rd, signaling the start of the day at 8890 N Illinois Route 47, the site of the annual Grundy County Agriculture Fair. Sleepers began to emerge from their campers and tents to prepare for the final day of fun and friendly competition.


      The Sunrise Center volunteer team gathered around the show arena by 8:30 am, running around to prepare the horses and anxiously awaiting the time when the announcer would call out the first group.


      Each of the seven students who attended were geared up with their competition numbers on their backs, ready to show Judge Judy what they could do the moment that they entered into the arena. The first round of therapeutic classes took place following a pony class, alternating between the two for the remainder of the time.

Kris Mondrella, program director, had prepared the students ahead of time in their weekly sessions with practice patterns. On competition day, however, the judge surprised all when she invited a group of riders to play a session favorite during one of the classes: red light, green light.


      Within the three classes that took place for therapeutic riding on the Fourth of July weekend, there were two “rounds,” or groups of two students, per class. “I wanted to make sure that each rider had at least one other person to be with in their class. It’s just more fun for them that way, and it amps up the competition factor a bit!” Mondrella said.


      First came the assisted round, which involved a volunteer leading the horse and one volunteer on each side of the rider, totaling three “assistants” in all. The second round was unassisted, which used only one volunteer at the head of the horse, however, it was merely a precautionary measure.

      The first class was one that actually didn’t involve any riding at all; this was the “Showmanship” class. All of the hard work that the volunteers put in before hand (such as washing the horses’ tails, trimming off their whiskers, and bedazzling Heidi’s tail!) really paid off. Students would follow the pattern laid out in the arena, leading their horse and posing at cones.


      Next to take place was a class which consisted of yet another custom pattern, however, this time the students were actually showcasing their riding abilities on the horses’ backs. Riders would walk and “woah” their horses as well as weaving through cones to show how well they could steer.


      Finally was a personal rider favorite, the trotting class. The pattern remained nearly identical to the previous one, but this time after weaving the cones, the students instructed their horses to “trot on” down the next stretch. This one always leaves a big smile on the riders’ faces, as the fast­ paced fun stimulates the therapeutic aspect of the program.


      At the end of each class, ribbons were awarded to the students, and then a special surprise was in store at the end of the eventing when all seven were led back into the arena.


      The two high­point champions, Austin (assisted) and Chris (unassisted), were each awarded with the prize of a shiny trophy. All of the riders also received a medal with “first place” engraved in the back. After the most exciting part of the day was over, a group picture of all of the Sunrise crew, including the horses, was snapped by several parents and the fair staff.


      All in all, the Fourth of July weekend went off without a hitch and Sunrise Center managed to pull off yet another triumphant year at the Grundy County Fairgrounds. The team can now rest, assured that each rider left the arena that day with the most important thing of all, a smile on their face.

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