Everybody watching chuckled.

The 6-year-old passed the reins of her horse to the judge so she could scratch her head.

Though it was an uncommon practice, she still got a fourth-place ribbon after she showed her 29 year-old mare, Taz, at the Huachuca Saddle Club Open Horse Show held Sunday at the Rockin’ JP Ranch in Miracle Valley.

Her mom, Marion, won second place and reserve champion with another mare, Miss Sunny Go Rose, and her cousin Jasmine Newton, 12, from Tucson, won third place with RM Friendly Tyler.

It was Newton’s first time in the show ring and she has been spending a lot of time helping her Aunt Marion and working with Tyler getting ready for the show.

It’s a family affair. Marion, who also competes in women’s roping, has been raising quarter-horses and paints for the past six years and has been showing horses for over 20 years.

“These are just brood mares. They had been saddle broke, but not much was done with them over the years. They hadn’t even been brushed,” said Marion. “I wanted something gentle for the girls and they have been just wonderful horses.”

Her suggestion for anyone starting out in the horse ring is to find a breeder or trainer with good horse sense and a horse that’s good and gentle.

A beautiful black stallion said to be “90 percent Arabian, 10 percent Polish” by his owner Carol Shields, of Hereford, had put up a bit of a fuss in the ring, doing what stallions do best — show-off a little and act like a scamp a little. He strutted in front of the judges with head and tail perked, then reared front hooves off the ground, mane and tailing flowing in the wind. The judges still liked him and gave him the Blue Ribbon and Grand Champion Stallion of the show.

“The judges don’t have to award ribbons,” she commented. “Even if your horse is the only one in the ring, you can come away empty-handed.”

In this instance, she and Fahiim were the only entry in the class.

“I waited for 52 years to have a horse like this,” said Shields. “I read ‘The Black Stallion’ when I was growing up and made up my mind, someday I was going to have a black Arabian stallion.”

She’s been working with the 10-year-old named JRW Bikr Fahiim, since last August and noted that he “wasn’t too good at anything.” He was used for stud and had not even been ridden.

“The first time I got on him, he was a dream,” she said.

She said in training a horse to saddle, it’s best to take a lot of time and patience, and lunge the horse a few times, building the gear up from bridle to saddle, before you put a foot in the stirrup.

“You just put one foot in the stirrup and kind of hang there. You don’t commit to getting up in the saddle. It’s easier to kick out of one stirrup and fall back. It’s less distance to the ground.”

She kept working with him and has gotten him into the ring several times now on a lead rope. Her pride in him shows as she says they’ll be in the Scottsdale show in the fall.

Shields’ love of horses began at an early age, but was put on hold after she joined the Marine Corps. She spent 18 years serving her country, many of those years spent at Fort Huachuca.

“They sent me here, then forgot about me, I guess,” she said with a laugh. “But, this is where I met my husband, so I’m happy with how it worked out.”

One thing you probably would not expect to see at a horse show is a mule, but there she was.

LT Bit O’ Honey was taking in her first show in the ring.

Terri Barrett, Hereford, had bought the 15-year-old mule for her boyfriend, who rides and packs, but couldn’t resist taking her in the ring in the Western Pleasure class.

The day held many events for riders of all ages and levels of experience.

Brenda Allen, organizer and president of the 50-plus-year-old club, said the show had done better than she expected, even with the heat, as she bustled about getting everything up to the judging booth. The front compartment of her horse trailer has been turned into the club’s mobile office.

“I like to show, but I can’t run the show and be in the show. It makes for cranky horses,” she joked.

Several members of the board participate in helping with the shows and it does take a lot of work.

“We’re all volunteers,” she noted.

A rider came out of the ring and rode up to the registration table to make a complaint. Seems the judges had set a figure-eight course up with themselves at the nexus. On top of that, they both had plastic bags blowing in the wind, which was stressing some of the horses and the young riders participating with this particular rider.

Allen simply said, “I’ll take care of it.”

She entered the ring, informed the judges and walked away with the two trash bags. Just another day at the show.