Pretty (princess?) in pink
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
It's not hard to tell pink probably is Taylor Weidenhaft's favorite color.
Good thing, since she collects a lot of ribbons with a darker variation of pink.
The 10-year-old Catharine girl added three more purples to her collection Sunday in the open class horse show at the 2012 Ellis County Fair.
That was sandwiched between two other shows in as many days involving her horses, Clay and Belle.
On Saturday, Taylor competed in the Ellis County Rodeo Queen and Princess Contest, and early this morning, she was back at the fairgrounds getting ready for the 4-H horse show.
Taylor and the six other princess contestants ages 8 to 13 have to wait until Wednesday's Kansas Professional Rodeo Association Rodeo to see who will be crowned the 2012 Ellis County Rodeo Princess, along with the rodeo queen coronation.
On Saturday, Taylor was easy to spot in her pink-and-white shirt while riding atop Clay with a pink blanket under her saddle and a pink helmet strapped to her head. Not surprisingly, her horse's breast collar has pink insets.
The next day, she added pink boots and pink chaps to her ensemble.
"Even her step stool is pink," said Julie Weidenhaft, Taylor's mom. "She loves pink. If she ever gets to not liking pink, we're in trouble, because we have a whole lot of pink at home."
Sometimes the only part of her outfit Sunday that wasn't pink was her black cowboy hat, which she stores in a pink case.
Most of the time during her competitions, though, Taylor wears a helmet.
With the increased knowledge of concussions in the past few years, there is a push for young contestants to wear helmets while riding a horse.
"The group I ride with wears helmets when we go out," said Becky Pokorny, a committee member of the Ellis County Rodeo Pageant. "We have all heard of or experienced people with head injuries.
"When you're riding a 1,000-pound animal, anything can happen. Even ponies are big, strong animals. If you come off and they're going 20 mph, it's a long way down."
Taylor's mom agreed.
"Think how much we stress bicycle helmets," Julie said. "A horse is a lot higher off the ground, and horses technically can be going a lot faster than a bike."
Julie said her daughter definitely "will wear her helmet" Wednesday.
"With the rodeo, so much can happen," she said. "With all the flags and the excitement, there's a lot more commotion going on. Horses can get spooked pretty easily."
Julie has first-hand experience with a death involving a fall from a horse. Her father, Ken Hanson, witnessed the results of a fatal fall when he was an EMT in Logan several years ago.
"A girl was just sitting there on her horse (during a competition), and (the horse) got spooked and bucked her off," Julie said. "She landed on her head, and it killed her."
Julie and her husband, Brandon Weidenhaft, both grew up around horses and wanted their daughter to experience the same.
The Weidenhafts' only child will have an especially busy day Wednesday.
A member of the Bits 'N Spurs 4-H Club, Taylor will show her goats at the 5 p.m. goat and sheep show at the show arena on the fairgrounds before making her way to the rodeo arena for the 7 p.m. KPRA Rodeo.
While Taylor enjoys a variety of activities -- she also participates in numerous youth sports as well as playing the piano -- Julie said her daughter's favorite pastime involves horses.
"If it's on a horse, she'll do it," Julie said.
Rodeo pageant notes
A rodeo queen will be crowned Wednesday, along with the 2012 Ellis County Rodeo Princess. Those honors will go to 18-year-old Brooke Evans from Mount Hope, provided she earns 80 percent of the points, since she was the only queen contestant Saturday.
Brooke already earned best-dressed recognition Saturday with her pearlized pink leather dress and cream-colored hat. She also was voted most photogenic by the pageant committee and judges.
Other awards given out Saturday went to princess contestants for: best hair, Abby Schwab, 9, Goddard, the youngest contestant; best boots, Jaylinn Pfeifer, 12, Ellis; Miss Hard Knocks, Leigh-Anne Poe, 10, WaKeeney; and Miss Congeniality, Sara Wasko, 13, Hanston.
Princess awards to be given Wednesday will be for horsemanship, public performance, princess runner-up and rodeo princess.