July 03, 2013 - Oxford and Addison townships now have royalty residing within their borders.
Oxford resident Sarah Liford queen of the 4-H Jr. Horse Court (click for larger version)
Sarah Liford, 13, was crowned the Jr. Horse Court Queen by Oakland County 4-H on June 25. That same day Addison resident Maria Vitucci, 19, was crowned Sr. Horse Court Queen.
"It feels pretty good," said Liford, an Oxford Middle School eighth-grader and member of the Davisburg Triple Bs 4-H Club, a 45-year-old group that specializes in horses and other livestock in the greater Oakland County area.
"I was surprised. I thought I was going to get princess."
Maria Vitucci, of Addison, queen of the Sr. Horse Court. (click for larger version)
"It's actually been one of my goals because I'm almost to the end of my 4-H career," said Vitucci, a 2012 Oxford High School graduate and sophomore at Oakland University.
This is Vitucci's second title. In 2009, she was a Duchess on the Jr. Horse Court.
Vitucci's been involved with 4-H for 11 years and is a member of the Paint Creek Valley 4-H Club based in Oxford.
Liford and Vitucci will reign over their subjects at the 2013 Oakland County 4-H Fair, which runs July 4-14 at Springfield Oaks County Park in Davisburg. They're required to attend the fair every day, make morning announcements prior to the showings and participate in various competitive horse events.
Basically, they'll serve as leaders and role models for other 4-H members who show their horses at the fair. They'll set an example by doing things such as keeping their horses' stalls clean and ensuring their animals always have fresh water.
"It's kind of like follow the leader – do what the leader does," Liford said.
Over the next year, they'll also visit other 4-H clubs and mentor younger members as well as participate in various community events such as local parades.
Liford, who's been riding for five years, owns a 12-year-old quarter horse named Nikki.
"I just like to ride," she said.
Liford prefers to ride English style as opposed to Western. "For Western, you use one hand (to ride) and for English, you use two hands. It's easier to control your horse," she said.
Vitucci's been riding since age 4.
"As soon as I could pretty much fit in the saddle," she said. She prefers to ride Western because that style offers more disciplines (or activities) than English and "it's more comfortable" to her.
Vitucci owns a show horse named Blue, an 11-year-old American Paint Horse. She has another horse named White Out, a 14-year-old Appaloosa.
When asked what it is about the equestrian lifestyle that she enjoys most, Vitucci replied, "I like the fact that I have this animal underneath me that could practically kill me if it wanted to, but we have this complete bond where we understand each other."
"It's amazing," she continued. "I'm not talking to my horse. I'm just communicating with it through my body language and it listens. It does exactly what I want it to do."
Vitucci's family owns a total of nine horses.
"It's a family thing," she said. "We're all into it."
In order to earn their 4-H crowns and sashes, Liford and Vitucci had to take a written test, be interviewed by judges and participate in three horse competitions involving showmanship and riding.
For the written test, they answered questions concerning the various body parts of the horse, equine health care and medications, different types of tack and equestrian safety.
For the interview, they told the judges how they would improve the county fair and enhance relations between 4-H members who specialize in different animals such as horses, cows and chickens.
Winning horse titles apparently runs in Liford's family.
Her mother, Tammie Liford, was crowned Miss Appaloosa America in 1996-97 and named Duchess of the Oakland County 4-H Sr. Horse Court in 1988.
Tammie is extremely proud of her daughter's achievement.
"It's awesome," she said. "It's a great honor. It's a stepping stone in her horse career. She's going to have a lot of fun this year."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.