WILLOW SPRINGS TOWNSHIP For the second year in a row, Lori Ferris and her Arabian horse Mon Jaynawk have taken the 14-and-over Grand Champion title at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson.
But this go-around wasn't quite as easy as the first time.
``It takes time, patience and money,'' she said during an interview at the Triple J Arabians stables, where she boards her horse. ``It's a lot of love, too.''
Ferris should know. During her last year as a 4-H competitor, she graduated from high school, started a full-time job and took on a full course load at Johnson County Community College.
Somewhere in between all of that -- usually from 9 p.m. to midnight -- she found time in the weeks before last Saturday's competition to travel from her home in Eudora to the stables where she practices with Jaynawk.
Triple J is also the home of the horse 12-year-old Jessica Underberg showed last weekend to win her first under-14 Western Pleasure Grand Championship. The horse, T.J. Satin Drift, is also an Arabian and is owned by Jessica's grandmother, Celia Miller.
Training is the key to success, Jessica's father, Jim Underberg, said.
``To compete takes a lot of practice here at home, and what we've started instilling is that when you practice at home, you practice like you're at a show,'' he said. ``If you learn bad habits at home, you'll take them to the show.''
Jessica's mother, Joy Underberg, runs the Triple J stables and taught both her daughter and Ferris how to ride. Underberg said in an interview Saturday afternoon that both girls had worked hard and made sacrifices to win their championships.
``This year Lori had to earn all her money for the shows, so it's been interesting, hasn't it Lori?'' Underberg said. ``Jessica is in the sixth grade, which is junior high in the Baldwin school district, so she comes home every night with homework in four or five subjects.
``The homework is challenging. With everything else, she doesn't have much time left to play, to just be a 12-year-old.''
Jessica was a grand champion last year in the pony pleasure category, but this was her first year to show a horse at the state fair even though she's been riding since she was 3 years old.
``It wasn't really a big change for me,'' she said.
Because Ferris spent a lot of time earlier this year working with another horse, she said, she didn't get to practice with Jaynawk as much as she would have liked before this year's fair. But the training she did proved to be adequate, and she was pleased with the way things turned out.
``Yeah, I'm really happy, especially since this was my last year,'' she said. ``I knew I had tough competition. I didn't think it was going to be easy by any means. I knew I'd have to work for it.''
Ferris and Jessica will take their horses to the American Royal in Kansas City at the end of October. Ferris said the competition would be more difficult than at the state fair because as many as 300 to 400 Arabian owners would show up from across the country to vie for top honors.
``They'll come from all over, coast-to-coast, north to south,'' she said.
The American Royal will mark the beginning of Ferris' adult competition now that she can no longer participate in 4-H. Jessica, however, has almost six years left for 4-H competition.
Aside from working to continue her winning ways at the State Fair, Underberg said one of her daughter's other goals was to get her quarter horse Nugget qualified for competition in Hutchinson.
``She has dreams of being able to go down there and win in the trail horse division,'' Underberg said.