FAIRMONT - Throughout the ages, horses have been asked to pull, carry and herd. They have accompanied people on long journeys, entertained them on racetracks, and made difficult tasks much easier.
But the horses mastering the course at the Martin County Fair on Thursday were asked to do something especially difficult: They were asked to trust their rider as they encountered unexpected noises and other unpleasant surprises.
It was the Sheriff's Posse Fleeing Felon competition, open to all horses stalled in the fair barns.
TEAMWORK — Connie Hinz works her horse Doc through the Sheriff’s Posse Fleeing Felon Course on Thursday at the Martin County Fair in Fairmont.
Posse member Laurie Sherman said competitors worked their horses through the obstacle course that posse members are required to pass, including handcuffing a dummy from horseback, transferring a dog from the top of a barrel into a kennel, and picking up a bag of noisy garbage and getting it into a bin.
Competitors had five minutes to complete the course, with three chances at each obstacle. A total of three points are available per obstacle.
It is a challenge for the rider and the horse.
"It is hard for the horses," Sherman said. "You are training them to trust the rider."
This was the first year the competition was held at the fair. It mirrors regular training exercises the Martin County Sheriff's Posse puts its horses through. Horses are asked to walk through yellow ribbons, balloons, umbrellas and water noodles.
"If you have a good relationship with the horse, they will trust you," Sherman said. "If they trust you, they will do what you ask."
The posse formed in 2007 to assist in locating lost people as well as to help control crowds and traffic. It is also called on to assist with manpower shortages, and emergency or disaster situations.
Members are given training and work under the supervision of the sheriff's department.
Sherman said the posse has been called to help as far away as Belle Plaine.
The posse currently has seven members, and is looking for individuals interested in joining. Anyone considering joining the volunteer organization can contact the sheriff's office at (507) 238-3166.