It was perhaps a once in a lifetime experience for the Martin-Zieammermann siblings. At least one they soon will not forget.
Cara, 13, and Larry, 7, of Marion, had an opportunity to show their miniature horses at the world championship of miniature horses in September at Fort Worth, Texas.
The road to qualify for the prestigious event was difficult. They had to place in sanctioned shows and they did just that at the Wichita Classic and Kansas State Fair.
The children’s grandmother, Cathy Martin of Marion, who purchased the horses for the children and got them involved in the sport, knew it would be difficult to raise the necessary money to travel to and participate in the show.
However, her grandchildren were determined to go and wouldn’t give up easily.
Known to much of Marion County because of their participation in numerous parades, they solicited businesses in Marion and Hillsboro, asking for donations. They also provided miniature horse-drawn cart rides during a Marion Chamber of Commerce event and sold snacks in efforts to raise funds.
When it was all said and done, the two raised more than $500, a sufficient amount for the family to go to the competition.
Cara, an eighth grader, has been showing horses, both quarter horses and miniature, for five years. Larry, a second grader, has been showing for two years.
Self-discipline to practice at least five hours per week (an hour, five days per week) and a true love of animals and the sport keep them interested.
By nature, horses are stubborn. Competitors have to work with their horses by practicing leading the animals by halters and through various obstacles.
There are several classes of competition.
“The halter class is when the horse is judged,” Cara said. “Showmanship is how well the trainer does the performance.”
The horse and trainer also are judged on obstacles including a teeter-totter and bridge. The trainer, and the horse, do not know the specific pattern required for the obstacle course until the show.
Larry and Deanna Olsen, owners of Cottonwood Miniature Horses of rural Marion, were instrumental in assisting the family in initially teaching them so they could train their horses.
The Olsens also assisted Cara and Larry in preparation of the world show, Cathy said. After all, they only had a few weeks between the state fair and the world show.
And what a show it was. It was like another world to the grandmother and her grandchildren.
It was a much higher caliber of competition than the Martin-Zieammermanns had competed.
“Most of the horses (at the national competition) were trained by professional trainers,” Cara said, and then shown by children. Whereas the Marion family trained and showed their own.
“It was great. I like trying new things,” Larry said.
Larry had qualified in showmanship; Cara in obstacles.
After the competition, Larry made the American Miniature Horse Association honor roll in his age group, 7 years old and younger, because he was ranked in the top-10 within the association.
There were more than 1,000 horses at the competition with 30 to 50 kids in each class, Cathy said.
There were competitors from throughout the U.S., and she knew of competitors from France and Russia.
Even 4-year-old Johnny Martin-Zieammermann got in the act by participating with his siblings in the costume competition.
In the costume competition, Cara earned an impressive 12th place out of dozens of competitors.
With the start of a new year of competition, the point tally starts over. Cara and Larry hope they can earn sufficient points again and be eligible to participate in the national competition.
More importantly, they enjoy the activity.
“I like to do it because it’s fun,” Larry said.
Cara has her sights set on a career of training horses, maybe only miniature horses.
Regardless of what the future holds, right now the family is grateful to those who sponsored their trip and participation in Texas, and eager to continue their success.