RICKREALL -- The saying "as stubborn as a goat" is a cliche' for a reason, as several youngsters learned Friday, Aug. 13, during the Polk County Fair's annual goat obstacle course competition.
Goats, unlike, say, dogs or horses, aren't the first animal most would think of as suited to an obstacle course.
That impression proved true as most of Friday's competitors had to do quite a bit of persuading to encourage their goats to complete the challenge.
The course consisted of an upright hula hoop the goats had to walk through. Then, they had to tread across a teeter-totter. After finding stable ground again, the goats took a few paces before having to plant their feet (two or four, depending on the size of the goat) inside a ring a couple feet in diameter and turn in a complete circle while not moving their hooves outside the ring. Then it was on to a small jump, which contestants could either hop over or crawl under (again, depending on size). Then the goats were led to a small pool, which they had to cross before taking on the next challenge.
Nearing the end of the course, the goat's were urged to climb a ramp to a platform and slide down (yes, on a playground slide) the other side. Finally, the last obstacle had goats zigzagging through a series of small logs, with hopes of not knocking them down.
Each goat and handler was timed and points were deducted for mistakes.
The goats in the ring Friday typically added their own flare throughout the course, adding jumps, kicks and more than a few bleats as their partner urged them on. The small audience offered encouragement to the contenders, and laughter at some of the more spectacular goat antics.
The obstacle course was more of a fun event than an actual judged competition, but Stacy Eash, the fair's 4-H goat superintendent, said the course was a good learning experience for the youngsters. Goat handlers need to find ways to convince their animals to conquer the obstacles -- not just leap or march around them -- which can take time.
"Sometimes, patience is a good thing," Eash said.
Kirk Fairchild, 12, said completing the course was more difficult than he expected. He said his
2-year-old black and white goat, Oreo, was more inclined to avoid the obstacles altogether.
"She wanted to walk around them," he said.
Kirk's younger brother, Timothy, paired with 4-month-old Maple, seemed to have an easier time.
"I liked it," the 9-year-old said.
His run was not without mishaps, however. Maple shied away from getting her feet wet, opting to take a big leap away from the pool obstacle.
Returning competitor Anna Toma, 8, borrowed a friend's baby goat, Waddles, to take through the course this year.
"I had a lot of fun last year," Toma said.
The 2-month-old baby goat didn't appear accustomed to time away from mom, so the future 4-Her had to have a little more patience than others.
Still, she was pleased with how well Waddles performed on the teeter-totter.
"I was surprised she went over that," Toma said.
Eash said in spite of dealing with occasionally less-than-willing goats, most pairs were able to move through the course quickly. The majority of the teams clocked in at two minutes or less.
"I think they did really well," Eash said.