Kiersten Henry of Red Lion races toward the finish line in the pole event. The Farm Show continued Wednesday, January 8, 2014, with its usual events, plus
Kiersten Henry of Red Lion races toward the finish line in the pole event. The Farm Show continued Wednesday, January 8, 2014, with its usual events, plus speed horse racing and the sheep to shawl competition. Bil Bowden photos

In a red blouse and black cowboy hat, Kiersten Henry began to pump up her 6-year-old horse, Lily.

The massive creature had a bounce in her hooves.

The two shot across the large arena, turning around obstacles with finesse before galloping back to the starting line. As the 20-year-old Dallastown resident finished up her run, a sizable crowd cheered her on.

"It's nice being able to have a big crowd," Henry said.

Speed racers: At the Pennsylvania Farm Show's Wednesday morning speed horse competition, she wasn't satisfied with her time. But the sport, like any other, is all about getting better and better, Henry said.

"Like seeing your improvements and everything," she said.

Henry, who wore spurs on her boots, has three horses on her farm. A member of the Pennsylvania Speed Horse Association, she's been horseback riding since she was 5 and speed racing for two years.

She's worked with Lily since she was a baby, she said, so the two have a good relationship.

But Andrew Bilger, 22, of Delta is still trying to find his stride.

He rode his 9-year-old horse, Zippos Brassy Star, in the competition, but the arena had a bigger crowd than he's used to, he said.

"A little stagefright, I would say," Bilger said.

A speed racer for two years, he said his first love is the draft horse, whose purpose was initially to carry knights of shining armor into battle. He's been riding horses since he was 12.

"It's definitely something to get your mind off stuff," Bilger said.

Competing couple: He competed with his girlfriend, Elisia Markey, 20, of Delta, who has a couple more years of speed racing experience.

"Competition-wise, I can't compete with her," he said.

Markey, who's been riding all her life, snagged first place in the pole event and third in the keyhole. Although she and 13-year-old Miss B. Haven received top scores for their speed, Markey wasn't satisfied.

"I kind of wish we would go faster," she said.

Working with horses has its perks, Markey said. She said she loves the adrenaline rush that comes with speed events, and animals have a special way about them.

"They can fight back, but they can't talk back," Markey said. "They're easier to get along with."

Racing with her boyfriend is a different story, she said.

"We're always in each other's way," she said.

The two compete throughout the year, but qualifying for the finals at the Farm Show is a top honor, Bilger said.

"Farm Show's kind of the thing you're looking forward to all year," he said.

-- Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.