By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
HUTCHINSON -- Quality family time for Richard and Rachel Harmon and their children is spent on the road, and aboard horses, especially in the summer months.
And they go to great lengths to make sure everyone, participants both human and equine, are in the right place at the right time.
During a 10-day span earlier this month, the Harmons -- Dad and the three kids, anyway -- participated in horse shows on both weekends of the Kansas State Fair.
Getting everything transported to the fair, 85 miles from their hometown of Otis, was an adventure in itself.
Once they reached the fairgrounds on several days, they stayed together in the dormitory-style 4-H Encampment Building -- sans air conditioning -- for convenience sake.
Even temperatures teetering near 100 degrees a day or two didn't deter the Harmons from continuing their tradition of "camping out" during state fair week.
"It's convenient, clean, secure, and there's hot water for a shower," Rachel said. "If you're tired during the day, you can go in and lie down, and it's quiet in there."
And the Harmons do get tired during the fair.
Their oldest child, 13-year-old Thomas, got up early with his dad Sept. 9 to get their horses ready for the day-long show.
Most participants wash their horses the night before a show. But one of the Harmons' animals is predominantly white.
"A white horse is easier to do in the morning," Richard said at 4:30 a.m. as Thomas led Misty, a paint pinto, down the hallway from its stall to the wash bay.
"They roll in their stalls and get dirty. We would probably have to rewash her in the morning anyway. There's no sense in getting wet twice."
Getting up early in the morning was no big deal to Thomas, who learned at an early age doing chores is just a part of the family's routine.
Besides, Thomas is accustomed to a similar schedule at home, where he wakes at 6 each morning to take care of his animals before school.
His two favorite projects in 4-H are horses and photography, from which he gleans life lessons from his parents.
Richard showed horses from the time he was a youngster growing up in Harper County, and Rachel owns her own business, Sagebrush Video Productions.
Rachel used to show horses but now "would rather do something else."
"I can do it, I just don't like to do it anymore," she said. "I'd rather go take pictures."
The couple said the experiences of traveling the state competing in horse shows are invaluable for their children.
"They learn a lot of responsibility," Richard said. "They have to take care of their animals, and that takes a lot of time."
"They're learning how to control a 1,000- or 1,200-pound animal."
"Here in a bit, you will see my 5-year-old son ride his horse and get it to do what he wants," Richard said of 5-year-old Rynn, the youngest of the Harmon siblings. "And he's been doing that for two years now."
Thomas and his sister, 9-year-old Rebekah, have their share of sibling squabbles, mostly because of their competitive nature.
"She'll try to beat me in anything," Thomas said. "I don't like to get beat by her."
But they also support each other when it counts and work together well.
In fact, at the 4-H show at the state fair, Thomas and Rebekah joined forces to finish seventh overall in pleasure pairs, or synchronized horse riding, where only the top 10 received ribbons.
Rachel admitted getting everything ready for the family to travel to, and participate in, 20-some horse shows a year is challenging at times, trying to make everything work around an already busy family schedule. But she said it's something that will remain on the family agenda.
"They get to get out and meet new people," she said. "They have a lot of friends out and about. The world is a lot bigger than Otis, Kan., and they know that."