CENTRE HALL — Abigail Buckwalter first climbed up on a horse when she was 2 years old.
Now 18 and doing about 10 shows per year, Buckwalter wants to be around horses for the rest of her life.
“I was kind of born into it,” she said. “I always joke that it’s kind of in my blood.”
Buckwalter was able to show off her practice Sunday taking a first, third and fifth in the 14-18 Youth Horsemanship competition as part of the four-day Pennsylvania Quarter Horse Association-sponsored Quarter Horse Show at the Grange fairgrounds.
The show — the largest in the state — increased in size from last year, boasting more than 600 participants over the four days, PQHA President Frank Salopek said.
People attended from about nine states and areas of Canada, with one person coming from as far as Australia, he said.
The show is known throughout the country and is the largest in Pennsylvania, but Salopek still has higher aspirations.
“Our goal is to become one of the top 10 shows in the nation,” he said.
As the equestrian area of the Grange fairgrounds continues to expand, Salopek said exponential growth of the show is possible, and organizers are excited about the possibilities in future years.
He added that the show helps the community as a whole with money being generated for local businesses. With an average of about four people coming with the more than 600 participants, there are more than 2,000 people total coming into the county.
Salopek said that could translate to as much as $500,000 being injected in local businesses over the four-day period.
Among the participants traveling long distances was Kodi O’Boyle, of St. Louis, Mich.
O’Boyle said she goes to about three shows every month, traveling for most of them. She originally started showing horses because her parents were into it and has loved it ever since.
And the key to performing well in the competitions is forming a strong partnership with the horse, Buckwalter said.
She said it’s about a 50-50 split on rider and horse to impress the judges.
“It’s definitely a team effort,” she said. “He needs to listen to me, and we have to work together to get it done.”
Buckwalter was using this show as a warm-up for the youth world show in Oklahoma City next month, and she praised this event as being well-run and having strong competition.
Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.