“Is this a real miniature horse?” the young boy asked as he ran a hand along the backside of the animal, which stood slightly taller than himself. “My aunt used to have a real horse ...”

In case you’ve never been, the Henderson County Livestock Show is all about the kids, big and small. On Thursday, some of those kids had absolutely nothing to do with the showing and the prepping and all that other stuff that goes along with competing at the show.

These students were among the nearly 140 from Eustace Primary School’s kindergarten class. Most all of them, except for a few who were home sick, were bussed to the Henderson County Fairpark Complex to see animals many have only read about or seen on TV.

The looks on their faces said everything as they got a chance to pet and actually hold animals such as rabbits, goats and, yes, real horses.

“They’re loving it,” said Kathleen Buie, one of the kindergarten teachers. “They were excited (when they first heard they were getting to go to the livestock show). Every time we say we’re going on a field trip, they’re like, ‘Yeaaaah!’”

Parent volunteers and even a member of Eustace FFA — 16-year-old Adrienne Rhodes — were also on hand to help out. And fear not: If the children got thirsty, one woman was armed with a large Ziplock bag full of bottled water and Dixie cups.

Needless to say, they were armed and ready for anything.

Like questions.

Rhodes, the Eustace FFA member, said most questions were about what you’d expect from a 5-year-old. They’re curious, and they want to know things like why horns are right there, or what an animal’s name is.

“It kind of makes me happy just to watch them,” said Rhodes. “A lot of the kids don’t get to see animals like this.”

For kindergartner Bethany McKinness, it was the bunnies she got to pick up that made the day special. Zachary Moore said he has never been around animals like this. He did say — out of earshot of the poor miniature horse — he had hoped to pet “a bigger horse.”

And while the experience may have been new to many of them, there was at least one old pro who could claim he had been there, done that.

“So have you ever seen animals up close like this before?” the reporter asked.

“Oh, yeah,” said Vanoie Harris, as a dead-serious expression formed on his face. “When I was in Pre-K.”

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e-mail jlarson@athensreview.com

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