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ST. MARYS — Horses are a relatively new interest for the Kuenning family.
Approximately three years ago, Reese Kuenning, 5, was riding the ponies at the Maria Stein Countryfest, and she asked her father for one. He obliged, and they have since acquired four horses. The family never imagined Reese’s interest would lead to such an opportunity to perform for an audience. This summer, Mack Kuenning, Reese’s father, had his own booth displaying chainsaw carvings at the Maria Stein Countryfest. Not too far from his booth was a group called the High Flying Pages, which was putting on a horse acrobatics show. This caught Reese’s eye.
“If Reese sees a horse anywhere, she is automatically drawn to it, even if it’s not hers,” said Jill Kuenning, Reese’s mother. “So she went over there, and my husband was like, ‘Reese, get back over here. Leave them alone ... these are show horses.’”
The men who perform in the show were welcoming and let her help take care of their horses.
“She started helping them clean their pens and washed the horses and brushed them, and just pretty much spent the whole entire day with them,” Jill Kuenning said. “They finally asked her to be in their show.”
The show starts out with five or six trapeze artists, followed by a comedy act with the horse. Reese was featured in the horse acrobatics act. The first part of the horse acrobatics is technical, with men doing backflips and juggling on the horses. The second part of this show is where Reese came in.
One of the performers, Robi Donnert, eased Reese up onto the horse, then lifted her to his shoulders, and eventually she was standing there as the horse trotted around.
Reese never showed an ounce of fear during the whole show. She didn’t have any preparation or training beforehand, Jill Kuenning said. Being up there on Robi’s shoulders was Reese’s favorite part.
“I was very high from the ground and I was cold a little bit,” Reese said.
Jill Kuenning said everyone was excited about Reese’s involvement.
“The girls in the show, they fixed her hair up, they put makeup on her,” Jill Kuenning said. “Those people were the most hospitable ... They were just great.”
Since then, Reese has performed with the High Flying Pages on several other occasions. Reese said she hopes to perform with them again next year.
“She’s been missing these people ever since the Maria Stein she has just been (asking), ‘When do I get to see them again?’” Jill Kuenning said. “I never, ever, ever imagined that something like this could ever happen. It was just the best thing ever, and it was such a good experience for her.”