Isaac Karp ripped a page from a catalog Monday morning and shoved it in his mouth.
At home, it’s the kind of thing that might get a 10-year-old boy in a lot of trouble.
But Isaac, trotting away on a horse, was cheered for the act Monday at the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair.
It’s called the catalog race. Contestants ride down the arena on horseback, pick a number out of a hat, find the corresponding page in a magazine, rip it out and get to the finish line as fast as possible.
Kathy Fye’s advice?
Free up your hands to steer and carry the page in your mouth.
Fye, a local 4-H leader and a member of the Grange’s equine committee, was looking on as newcomers got to take part in slowed-down versions of the catalog race and other popular events.
It’s a way for kids like Isaac, who’s been riding for two months, to break into competition without focusing on the technical skills. It’s meant to be fun, and if it helps hook the next generation of riders, that’s all right with Fye.
“You’ll hear everybody cheering for everybody,” she said. “Nobody here competes against each other. It’s just have a good run.”
It was plain to see Monday that Isaac agreed.
“It’s fun,” he said, a wide smile shooting across his face.
That’s music to his sister’s ears.
Helen Karp, 15, has been riding for a decade and has, admittedly, long been trying to get her little brother to join her in the barn at their Millheim home.
“It’s pretty awesome,” she said. “He has kind of denied wanting to do it for as long as I’ve been riding. I kept pestering him and he finally said, ‘OK, if you leave me alone I’ll go into the barn.’
“He went in, he loved it and here we are.”
Isaac had good company Monday morning among the group of young riders who helped kick off a long day of equestrian events at the fairgrounds. The youngsters and their families form a close community — eager to cheer each other on, and ready to run to the rescue when there is a fall.
It’s so close, one mother said, that when her daughter couldn’t bring her horse at the last minute, a loaner was quickly offered.
“She’s so lucky, because her horse couldn’t come and the nice people at the barn just let her borrow a horse,” Stephanie Cooper-Robinson said of her daughter, Naomi Knapp, 11, of Bellefonte.
“The community here is really fantastic,” Cooper-Robinson said. “It’s really great. It’s so nice for them to get out and have fun and be with other kids.”
Naomi held Squanto, the loaner horse, close as she sped toward the finish line Monday, catalog page between her teeth.
“I love it,” she said after posting a time that was fast enough to return home with a ribbon.
Naomi has been riding for three years and plans to continue. Her mother was just worried Monday about getting her daughter back on the ground.
Cooper-Robinson had to remind her daughter that the the catalog race was her last event of the day. More experienced riders would soon be filing into the arena to run the same events, but at a faster speed.
“She won’t get off this horse,” Cooper-Robinson said. “She got on the horse this morning and she won’t get off.”