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Grace Lindstrom, 16, of Milaca, along with her horse named “Fancy,” recently won the championship at the Minnesota 4-H Western Heritage Competition in the Round Pen category on Aug. 12 in Sauk Rapids.

Grace Lindstrom has been riding horses for as long as she can remember, but the bond she shares with her horse, Fancy, goes beyond ownership.

The 16-year-old from Milaca has only had the 5-year-old American Quarter Horse two years, and they’re already doing big things together.

After starting practicing in the spring of 2019 for Round Pen Calf-Roping events, Lindstrom and Fancy took home championship honors at the Minnesota State 4-H Western Heritage Competition on Aug. 12 at RJ’s Stable in Sauk Rapids.

Lindstrom previously had competed in events such as barrel racing and pole weaving with horses, but this was her first attempt in roping.

“I just got into cattle events this past spring and really fell in love with it,” said Lindstrom, who is home-schooled. “When I got her two years ago, she was untouched and didn’t know anything, so we’ve been learning as we go.”

The Western Heritage competition gives youth the opportunity to explore, preserve and develop and appreciation for Western heritage.

They also learn to balance competition and education, learn safety skills and sportsmanship while setting realistic goals.

Lindstrom competed against 10 others in the event, in which two calves are released into the pen.

Competitors must legally rope one of the calves, and winners are determined by who does so in the least amount of time. There is a 60-second limit.

Two calves are released into the pen, and a legal rope must go over one of the calf’s nose and behind their ears to be legal.

Lindstrom did it in 7.5 seconds to take top honors to beat the runner-up by 0.6 seconds.

Lots of preparation

To get ready for roping competition, Lindstrom and Fancy practiced weekly using a dummy cattle that was pulled behind a four-wheeler. This was made more challenging considering Fancy, whose show name is “Fancy’s Flying Champ,” lost an eye in a training accident in 2017.

“She’s really a smart horse,” Lindstrom said. “Usually it takes a few weeks to get them used to roping, but it only took her a week. We practiced a lot getting her used to it. The only goal I had going into the competition was to grow further from where we started in the spring.”

Preparations prior to competitions are both mental and physical. Lindstrom said they get the horse stretched out, much like someone would do prior to a running competition. But no matter how much she prepares, she’s never quite sure what to expect once they enter the pen.

“When first getting horse ready, you have to make sure they’re all warmed up and stretched out to get them ready,” Lindstrom said. “Before I go into the ring, I always pet my horse and go through what I’m going to do. I always have a plan before I go in. Once I’m in the arena, everything you thought you were going to do doesn’t happen because it goes so quickly. You have so much adrenaline going through you.”

Lindstrom’s reaction after winning the competition is proof of their bond.

“I hugged her and told her ‘good girl,’ ” Lindstrom said. “I never thought she’d be able to be a cow horse because of her eye, so that was a big accomplishment for us.”

Lindstrom’s competition season is not yet complete. Due to placing in the top five at the Mille Lacs County Fair earlier this month, she will be competing in a “Games” competition on a different horse from Sept. 12-15 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

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