The day started early at the S Bar W Arena at the Ellis County Fairgrounds on Saturday.

Check-in for the open class horse show started at 7:30 a.m. and in little more than an hour the judging was underway. A bright, sunny day, shade was at a premium.

“Shadow is not being agreeable for her,” said Sandra Quint, Hays, watching from the sidelines as her daughter Krista Ivy, Stockton, exhibited in the Showmanship-Adult Class.

“He should be standing still like this one,” Quint said with a nod to another horse in the arena. “My daughter being a perfectionist is probably disappointed right now.”

Saturday’s open class horse show kicked off the fair weekend, followed by the 4-H Horse Show set to start Sunday at 8:30 a.m. Saturday night’s car races at RPM Speedway were scheduled to return Sunday evening, starting at 7 p.m., with the beer garden running from 7-8 p.m.

Ivy, 28, hasn’t been in the ring for nearly a decade, after showing horses for years, including all through college on the equestrian team at Laramie County Community College in Laramie, Wyo. Quint says the horses, with 10 years off the circuit, are out of shape for it. But upon moving to Stockton from Nebraska, where open class shows are rare, Ivy said she couldn’t resist getting back into it when she heard at the last minute about the circuit of open class events in western Kansas.

“I’m not used to it, it feels like I’m new at it again,” said Ivy, a para-educator at Stockton High School. “And the other end isn’t working because I haven’t been working with them. It’s definitely an experience for both the horse and the rider. Horses are social animals, and my Paint mare wants to sit and talk to all the other horses. The horse that is standing still for 30 minutes has probably been to 200 shows. Shadow has been to one.”

Cameryn Kinderknecht, who’s starting at Fort Hays State University this fall, brought Rudy, a wild American Mustang yearling that she was approved to adopt a year ago through a Bureau of Land Management program, the Youth Mustang Challenge.

Accustomed to showing at Kansas Western Horseman Association events, this is Kinderknecht’s first time for the Ellis County open-class show, said her mom, Rhonda, watching ringside. Rudy is coming along, slowly.

“You have to gentle them, teach them to lead, to load in trailers,” says Rhonda. “It took a good three to four months just to get him gentle. She finally got a saddle on him. Being here gets him used to being out of the pasture. He’s been over at the trailer being very vocal.”

The Kinderknechts have five horses, and Cameryn’s been riding since she was four.

“He’s pretty goofy,” Cameryn says of Rudy. “He likes to talk to the other horses all the time.”

Working with a wild Mustang has been different from her other horses.

“They have a completely different perspective on trust,” said Cameryn. “It was very slow building trust, like sitting on the ground by his pen for an hour a day, or just feeding him a handful of grain. It took very small baby steps to get him to trust. It was a long journey.”

She plans to break him next year when he’s grown up more.

Eight-year-old Tucker Schmidtberger, Victoria, entered with his quarter horse, Blue.

“They’re not getting along too well," said Tucker’s dad, Wade, watching from the sidelines with Tucker's mom, dad, grandparents and brothers and sister. “The horse is too busy worrying about everything going on.”

Even so, Tucker and Blue took second place, called Reserve Grand Champion, in their class.

Tucker told his family afterward, “I would’ve got grand champion if Blue …” and his sister Emma, 11, finished his sentence, “had behaved.”

Eleven-year-old Keeli Kimzey sat in the shade with her horse, Cinch. Earlier they took Reserve Grand Champion in their class. Cinch stood looking over her shoulder, his face close to hers, as she scratched under his chin and petted his cheeks and nose.

“I love horses,” Kimzey said, noting that Cinch is pretty laid back. “He doesn’t always do what I want him to do, but most of the time we get along.”

Horse breeder Craig Talkington, Hays, brought Apple, a horse out of Texas that he bought in Oklahoma this winter. They won first place for Supreme Champion on Saturday. Talkington has about a dozen horses.

“I just brought this mare out for fun,” said Talkington, who used to show horses years ago. “She’s kind of high-spirited at times, but you wouldn’t know it today. Horses are just like people, they all have different personalities.”

Lisa and John Kisner, Hays, were volunteering for the show. John, owner of Kisner Electric, was working as the show superintendent, and Lisa, owner of Lisa’s Custom Interiors, as the judge for the events.

“It’s tough,” said Lisa of the judging, during a break. “I feel like I took a long time on the halter class. There are some really nice horses here for sure.”

She and her husband volunteer for the fair and many other horse shows.

“I’ve been showing all my life,” said Lisa. “We do it because we want to see these events continue.”

With the riding events starting soon, Krista Ivy and Cameryn Kinderknecht were among those getting ready for the English riding class.

Ivy’s mother Quint had explained earlier about the participants and their love of horses: “That’s the only reason you own a horse, is because you love them,” said Quint. “They’re a lot of work, a lot of upkeep, they are expensive, and a lot of fun. I can’t imagine life without a horse.”

Monday's schedule for the fair, 1344 Fairground Rd., includes judging of the 4-H visual arts, clothing and photography entries, and check-in of 4-H and open class livestock, rabbits and poultry.