VERMILLION, Ohio — Callie Finnegan, 10, gives quiet commands to Preston, her 15.3-hand Quarter Horse, who responds quickly as she maneuvers him around the ring. Standing, his shoulders are a few inches above her head, but she jumps down from the saddle easily.
After working with her horse, she helps her little sister, Julia, 7, corral the two dogs who escaped from her grandparents’ house. Callie said she considered showing her dog in 4-H this year, but decided not to because she was too busy with softball and her other animals.
It’s understandable. With the support of her family and friends, Callie is already a seasoned and accomplished competitor in Lorain County 4-H and at the Ohio State Fair with Preston, her miniature horse, Cinnamon, and her market pig projects. She has also earned recognition on the national level, in Tractor Supply Co.’s Great Neighbors contest.
The hours Callie spends working with her horses, her blonde ponytail sticking out under her helmet, show.
A member of Four Leaf Clovers 4-H club, she has qualified for state fair with her horse classes for several years, ever since she was old enough for 4-H. At state in 2018, she won horse skillathon, placed reserve overall in trail with her mini horse, Cinnamon, and placed ninth in showmanship.
This year at the state fair, she will compete in driving pleasure, driving reinsmanship, trail and showmanship. She will also compete for the first time in hog state skillathon.
She is especially proud of her accomplishments at the All-American Youth Horse Show, in Columbus, in May. She placed third overall for western ponies in showmanship and second in her class and fifth overall in English for ponies with Cinnamon.
She has yet to show Preston at the Ohio State Fair, since the state fair does not have walk/trot classes. She needs more time to work on loping with him.
After working with her horses, Callie heads off to train her market hogs at her other grandparents’ farm.
Last year, she won hog skillathon at the Lorain County Fair. Every year so far, she has made it into the showmanship final drive.
“They’re just fun to be with. They have lots of energy,” she said about her pigs.
The hardest part is selling the pigs at the fair. Callie’s face drops when she talks about the sales. Still, she has no plans to stop showing market pigs.
“I know they can’t live forever; they’re market pigs and that’s what they’re here for,” she said.
Her goal is to give her pigs the best life they can have while they are with her.
Callie has learned a lot about feeding animals through her swine projects. After seeing some pigs struggle to gain weight while others ended up overweight, she started pan feeding, changing feed proteins to adjust for gain needed and weighing her pigs regularly so she can adjust their feed.
Callie is hoping to complete all eight competitive horse state events this year. The eight events include communications, the horse bowl, the hippology contest, the horse judging contest, skillathon, the junior horse show, competitive trail ride and groom and clean.
To compete in groom and clean at state, Callie and her team will have to win at the county fair.
She completed her communications project with a safety poster about causes and prevention of choking in horses. She also already competed in the hippology and horse judging contests, and the horse bowl earlier this year.
The oldest child, Callie encourages Julia, currently a cloverbud who is just starting to show horses. Callie helps Julia work with her horses.
She keeps her horses at her maternal grandparents’ house. Her aunt, Heather Davis, once the Lorain County Fair horse queen, taught her how to ride.
“Grandma, me and my mom, we all go to horse shows together,” Callie said.
Callie keeps her 2019 fair pigs, Jasmine and Rajah, at her paternal grandparents’ farm, which sits on the same property she lives on. Her father, Matthew, and his brother, Michael, have both helped her work on her pig showmanship.
“She’s got a lot of coaches,” said Shanna Finnegan, Callie’s mother and an agriculture teacher at Firelands High School.
Callie has also received support from friends and other 4-H’ers at shows.
“They’ve got a whole community,” Shanna Finnegan said.
Callie recalls forgetting her showmanship hat and borrowing one from a friend at a show.
“When I’m done showing … whatever placing I get, I always tell everyone good job,” she said.
She also works with her friends on barn chores at the county fair, where she camps every year.
“I like being able to ride my horse with all of my friends,” she said.
Last year, Callie was selected as a winner of the Tractor Supply Co. Great Neighbors contest. Her entry was an essay she wrote about how she managed pig and cow manure, in order to protect the creek near her grandma’s house and keep the neighbors from smelling it.
She wrote the essay, sitting in an airport, on her way back from a Florida vacation to go to the 2018 State Horse Bowl.
“She truly works her tail off,” Shanna Finnegan said.
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