Kate Smering is riding high in the saddle these days.
The time, date and place are lost, if in fact they ever registered in Kate Smering's mind.
The emotion of the moment -- when she admired a horse for the first time -- will never go away.
"I started loving horses when I was 5," Kate said. "I saw them, and I thought they were beautiful. I told my parents I wanted to ride them."
Today, the girl who came home from a North Carolina kindergarten bubbling about horses is a 13-year-old Lawrence junior high school student. But her fascination with horses hasn't dimmed.
Kate is the reigning Douglas County 4-H Horse Show queen, a title based on knowledge of horses and skill in horsemanship. As queen, she represents the county at various events, such as parades in area towns.
Along with her royal duties, Kate competes in 15 to 20 horse shows a year. This month, she's preparing to compete in Western pleasure riding, Western horsemanship and English equitation at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson. Kate also plans to compete in jumping and racing events.
Accompanying Kate will be her show horse, Tifolli, an Arabian mare her parents purchased after the family moved to Lawrence four years ago.
"She was so cute and she had a personality," Kate said. "She wouldn't listen to me at all. Now she's perfect."
Kate said Tifolli proved that point during the royalty contest at this year's 4-H horse show, in which competitors were required to display their skills in a riding pattern.
"We went out and did the pattern and it was perfect," said Kate, who also gave a speech and took a written test about the horse show rules to earn the crown.
Kate's mother, Sue Smering, said her daughter was determined to win this year after finishing second in 1994.
"I think it all came down to the victory ride," Mrs. Smering said. "She really wanted to take that victory ride."
Mrs. Smering said the ride was one of several rewards Kate had received from her interest in horses.
"I think it's given her a lot of confidence," Mrs. Smering said. "She's also learned goal-setting, and it's good for her because she's very competitive."
Kate said the royalty award was especially meaningful to her because it came during an emotional time. Her father has made a job change that requires the family to move to Philadelphia.
Although the move will separate Kate from her friends, her love of horses will go with her.
"We've got the house," Mrs. Smering said. "Now we're concentrating on stables and schools."
"I want to keep showing (horses)," Kate said. "Eventually, I might try training them, or doing something where I'd get paid by working with them."