BAXTER -- When Emily Rudningen first met Daningo, an Arabian horse, four years ago it was in bad shape.
Daningo's mane and tail were knotted, it had no color and its body looked horrible, Rudningen said. The horse was abandoned at a private residence in Brainerd and it was on its way to be sold for its meat.
When Rudningen saw the horse and looked into its eyes she knew she had to have him. Rudningen and the horse bonded instantly and today they are best friends.
Over the years, Rudningen nursed Daningo back to health. They will compete at the Crow Wing County Fair in the 4-H horse show on Tuesday and Wednesday in six different classes, including Western, English, showmanship and the gaming competition.
This is Rudningen's second year competing in the county fair. She will compete in the 15-19 age group. Last year she competed in the 12-14 age group. However, the soon-to-be Brainerd High School sophomore has competed in horse shows around the state since she was 7.
Rudningen, 15, the youngest sibling of seven of Debbie and Mark Rudningen of Baxter, is the only sibling who has a passion for horses. Rudningen rode on horses with her mother before she could walk. At 5, she was able to get on the horse without help and proved to her parents that she could ride on the family's 80 acres by herself.
"We had total trust in Emily," said Debbie Rudningen.
Emily Rudningen owns Daningo and a brood stock paint horse called Whinnie. She is responsible for the care and the expenses. At the Rudningens' ranch there are seven horses.
"Whinnie taught me a lot about horses," said Rudningen. "She taught me how to control a horse, how to handle different situations and she doesn't let me get away with anything. If I tried to get her to run and run, she'd stop and pin her ears back and grunt because you can't run a horse that much.
"She is my second mother."
Rudningen took Whinnie to the state competition last year and the two did well. She competed with Whinnie in the stock competition and Daningo will compete in the pleasure competition.
Rudningen said her goal at the county fair is to qualify for state. Daningo is a show horse and is learning a horse discipline called dressage. Toni Waselensky, a trainer at Claire-B Training Center in Brainerd, is helping Rudningen, who is working at the training center, to become a semi-professional rider. Waselensky is Rudningen's second trainer. Her first trainer was Shelly Sellers of Novac Equine Center in Brainerd.
Rudningen has been preparing Daningo for the fair for the past year. She has worked with the horse for an hour to 90 minutes five days a week. In the summer she also took lessons and she began working more and more with the horse as the fair drew closer.
She has kept Daningo's tail wrapped in a bag to keep it clean for a year, which helps the tail grow. Each week she would take the bag off, shampoo and condition the t ail and then she'd put it back in the bag. Then she braided the tail.
"He is ready," Rudningen said of Daningo for the 4-H horse show. "I think I push him too hard. I want him to be perfect, but that doesn't happen overnight."
On Sunday Rudningen shaved the horse's legs, muzzle and face and then she clipped its ears. On Monday, she washed the horse and shined the white spots of the body. The horse also had its feet trimmed. She also decorated her booth at the fair and finished her scrapbook.
Daningo will eat corn oil in its grain to help it with energy and will drink minerals in its water to help keep hydrated at the fair.
At 8 a.m. Tuesday, Rudningen is anticipating to be at the fairgrounds. Right before the horse show, Rudningen will put gloss around Daningo's eyes and muzzle, paint its hooves and put a shine solution over its body.
"Everything has to be polished and clean," said Rudningen of the horse. "I have to shine my boots, put on make-up and have to have my hair pulled back and in a net."
Right before the show the riders will be given a pattern of what they need to do with their horse. Rudningen said they have about 10 minutes to memorize it and then to perform it.
Debbie Rudningen said her daughter is good at memorizing the patterns and is dedicated to her horses.
"Emily doesn't mind the hard work," said Debbie Rudningen. "She'll go to a show at 4 a.m., come home and she will not sit down and relax until the horses are unpacked and out of the trailer and are OK. She has always taken good care of the horses. She is just like I was. I'm so grateful that my last child has the same passion with horses that I do."
Emily Rudningen wants to attend an equine college after high school. Her dream is to train horses all over the nation and to rescue all types of animals. She also would like to own her dream horse, an Andalusian.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5851.
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