The competitors might have been the ones getting the bouquets and medals at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, but 25 Pony Club members shared the honors.
The girls, ages 8 to 16 (the one boy chosen had to drop out), had important duties. They delivered the bouquets, medals and trophies to the likes of Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, president of the governing body of the Games, Alltech president Pearse Lyons, or U.S. Equestrian Federation president David O'Connor who, in turn, presented them.
"I just wanted to represent the Pony Club well, and not trip or drop a medal," said Anne Sheerin, 14, of Lexington.
It was no small task. The crystal trophies weighed nine pounds each, and they had to carry two at a time. Then there was the curved, carved crystal trophy for the winner, which had to be balanced on a ceramic tray.
"They are incredibly heavy," said Morgan Garrett, 15, of Nicholasville. "That is the only thing on your mind — not dropping the crystal. Do not drop the tray."
Each ceremony was slightly different, so they practiced beforehand. Garrett did team show jumping and team and individual para-dressage, which she said was especially moving.
"It was amazing, to see how connected they were with their horses and how excited they were and how hard they work," Garrett said.
Sarah Sheerin, Anne's twin sister and also a presenter, said the whole experience had been so exciting that she's "sad it's already over."
A particular treat was seeing dressage superstar "Toto," Dutch horse Moorlands Totilas.
"It was amazing to see him up close and see how gorgeous he really was," Anne Sheerin said.
When the Pony Club first put out the call more than a year ago, many volunteered. At first, Pony Club officials thought they would be able to give dozens, maybe 100, kids a chance to get involved. But that proved tricky because to qualify, each volunteer had to participate in at least one of the Games' test events at the Kentucky Horse Park to learn the ropes.
In the end, the field was narrowed to a few, and most of them were from the Central Kentucky area. But some drove in from Southern Ohio and Southern Illinois, said Karen Winn, interim executive director of the U.S. Pony Club.
"It's a small part of the big package, but it's important. And they're getting to meet the top athletes," Winn said. "We've been really proud of them and we're glad that's been part of our participation."
The Pony Club members, many of whom are interested in dressage, jumping and eventing, got close to every discipline at the Games.
Who were they most excited to meet? Maybe dressage superstar Edward Gal of the Netherlands or Princess Haya?
"Probably David O'Connor," Winn said. "He's an Olympic gold medalist."
And they all got new riding gear, courtesy of Ariat. Each girl appeared in full equestrian regalia, including helmet and medical armband, "because at Pony Club, we're very safety oriented," Winn said.
Reach Janet Patton at (859) 231-3264 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3264.