Garrett Nietert poses with one of the several horses he works with daily on his family farm. He continues his mother’s love of horses, working and showing year-round. (Photo by Emily Burds)
By Emily Burds, Express Intern
“There once was an old woman who lived in a shoe, had so many kids she didn’t know what to do.” For the Nietert family, that “shoe” is their family farm, and for this summer, that “old woman’” is Mike and Brandy’s 15-year-old son Garrett, who never has a dull moment.
Garrett, who will be a sophomore at MHS this fall, is gearing up for fair week. With the countdown on, he says he spends almost all of his time with the large variety of animals he shows. Showing in the horse show, sheep show, and the poultry show keeps the young man on his toes, whose experience in animal showing goes beyond most.
Garrett has been working with animals from birth, starting at just 4-years-old showing his favorite animals: horses. His love for equine was instilled in him from his mother, Brandy, who grew up riding and training horses for shows with her family.
“I’ve just always had them,” Brandy explained. She let her boys decide if they wanted them or not and they had no objections. Today, the Nieterts have seven horses in residence on the farm, boarding two for the summer for family friends. Brandy also spends her time helping other riding families and kids train and prepare their horses for shows, conducting riding clinics throughout May for 4-H members
When Garrett isn’t running after horses getting into places they aren’t supposed to be, he can be found walking his sheep or feeding the show chickens and ducks that live in the “Chicken Mansion” built by dad Mike.
“The ducks and chickens were Jasper’s idea,” Brandy explained of her middle son, who originally wanted a pet duck. That has since turned into several ducks and a flock of 30 or so chickens who provide fresh eggs and meat to the family. As for the sheep, Garrett found this niche through trial and error.
“My first year of 4-H I showed pigs,” he explained. “We looked at the sheep that year and decided to buy a few for the next year to try out. They are so much easier to work with and less expensive too.”
Brandy explained that she and Mike wanted the kids to have a project they could really sell and see the production value out of, earning the money they worked so hard for which is not the case with the horse shows. They found sheep to be a perfect fit for this after Garrett had a hard time as a youngster seeing his pig loaded on the truck straight from the fairgrounds. With the sheep, the Nieterts’ four boys get to bring them home for a bit before they head to sale.
For Garrett however, his first love will always be his horses. He shows and rides year-round, riding four to five days a week during the summer and loading up with his mom a few times a week to meet his riding friends down at the fairgrounds for some arena practice.
“Some days are easier than others,” he said. To prepare a horse to be a show horse, Brandy explained that because they are required to be broken in more so than other animals, it can be difficult, but once they are broken in, it is much easier.
“It’s like running, you have to build up your stamina and continue to work to keep up that good shape and form,” Brandy explained.
One thing that Brandy cites as being a big help is having all her boys involved on the farm. “They can all help out and cover for each other if someone can’t do something, that way everything is getting done and they are working together,” she said.
The boys will be doing just that come fair time this year, as they will be busy between the numerous shows that both Garrett and now Jasper are involved in. This hasn’t deterred Garrett though, he is keeping his eyes on the prize, predicting good success in all categories for his shows in Jones County and even bigger ones for the state fair.
“I want the buckle,” Garrett determinedly said. That buckle would be for Ranch Horse Pleasure, a category of the State Fair Horse Show, whose top prize Garrett has long sought after, losing by just a few points to none other than his cousin last year. Despite possibly being out for a bit of revenge, Garrett says that he loves his horse showing friends where everyone gets along and has a great time seeing who will have the bragging rights for the year.
Brandy said that as much as they love the county fair, the state fair is an experience they can’t help but look forward to where they get to show in the new air conditioned arena, taking their time between their limit of five events and meeting the professional judges that are brought in from around the country.
“The competition is stricter but it is so much more fun,” Garrett says of the State Fair.
Having to work with these numerous animals all year round, one may wonder why they should get involved in a 4-H animal project. Brandy was quick to list the reasons she has built over the years as a 4-H leader for the Prairie Hill club.
“An animal project is tough to do; there is no denying that,” Brandy said. “It is an everyday thing because you have to take care of these animals who rely on you. That creates a level of responsibility that is above and beyond other projects. And you also have to learn how to balance because these kids still have school and sports and homework and have to come home when all is done and still take care of their projects. It really is all about patience and determination because as I always say, taking care of animals is just like taking care of children.”
But there is no denying that the Nieterts love their “shoe” full of “children” and will continue to do so for years to come as Brandy explained, “We love it and love living it.”