Three generations of horse lovers will be together when the Hoffmann family and their horses descend on the Ozaukee County Fair
When Kate Hoffmann, her husband Jerry and five children take their horses to the 156th annual Ozaukee County Fair next week, it will once again be a three-generation affair.
Hoffmann, who grew up in the Town of Belgium and graduated from Ozaukee High School in 1990, is the daughter of Cathie and Al Urness.
Her parents bought her a pony for Christmas when she was 9 years old.
“My mom grew up with horses and rode for a long time,” Hoffmann said. “She says there is a horse gene and we have it.”
The Hoffmann family, including children Amy, 12, Nick, 11, Becky, 9, Maggie, 7, and Fritz, 4, live on an 80-acre farm in the Town of Saukville that they bought from Jerry’s parents in 2001.
Jerry is the son of longtime Town of Saukville chairman Marvin Hoffmann.
The Hoffmanns own five horses, including a dun paint horse named Leo they bought in May.
They also have a mustang named Cody and three ponies named Patchy, Jack and Bucky.
Kate Hoffmann was a member of Jay Road 4-H Club and took part in several county fairs growing up. After graduating from high school, she attended Murray State University in Kentucky, where she rode on the equestrian team and minored in equine science.
She rode English and western-style horses for the team and participated in the school’s jumping and judging teams.
After college, Hoffmann taught physical education and health in the Northern Ozaukee School District for eight years.
After her children were born, she quit her teaching job and taught riding lessons in her spare time, while Jerry continued as a technology education teacher in the district.
Jerry Hoffmann graduated from Ozaukee High School in 1983.
Kate Hoffmann is now leader of the Ozaukee County 4-H Horse and Pony Project and works as the director of youth development at the Feith Family Ozaukee YMCA in Saukville. The family is part of the Lakeview 4-H Club.
She knows what it takes to help her kids get ready for the county fair.
“Ideally, we would do something with the horses every day,” Hoffmann said. “We are giving them a bath pretty much every day and practicing patterns for their speed events.”
Amy, Nick and Becky will show their horses next Friday, with speed competitions scheduled for Saturday. They might even participate in some English events on Sunday, Hoffmann said.
The kids will also create a poster as part of the fair’s educational exhibit.
“The judge will sit down with them face to face and ask questions and give them a ribbon,” Hoffmann said.
Horses aren’t the only project the family participates in at the fair.
Nick is in the dairy project, showing a Holstein calf that lives on Peggy and Dean Schoessow’s farm in Freistadt.
Becky will show rabbits, and Fritz and Maggie will take part in duck and chicken projects in open class. Children must be in at least third grade to show horses at the fair.
Having five horses to care for teaches her children responsibility, Hoffmann said.
“They all have feeding and cleaning chores and have to make sure the horses are ready for the fair,” she said.
Hoffmann said she’s fortunate to keep horses on the farm, but doesn’t take it for granted.
Although she doesn’t teach lessons anymore, her favorite students were the ones who didn’t own horses.
“I loved the first time riders that are horse crazy but don’t have the opportunity to be around horses,” she said. “They love to stay after the lessons and just pet and brush the horses and spend time with them.”
She’s also the horseless leader for 4-H members who don’t own horses.
With five children in grade 7 or younger, it’s important the kids stay safe when riding, Hoffmann said.
“Everybody wears a helmet when they ride,” she said, noting the family does plenty of research on finding tame horses before buying one. “The first lesson I teach the kids is safe ways to move around on the ground and not frighten the horses.”
While 4-H is an important part of her children’s lives, it’s important they try other things, Hoffmann said.
Amy runs on the cross-country team at Ozaukee Middle School. Nick wrestles and plays basketball. Becky competes in dog agility competitions with grandmother Cathie’s Welsh corgis.
“I think the younger kids will get more involved with horses when they’re old enough, but we’ve always told them it’s not something they have to do,” she said.
But fair week is one of the best times of the year for the Hoffmann family.
“My husband and I get to see a lot of old friends who have families like ours,” Hoffmann said. “Last year, I did an alumni ride with other moms. It’s a sort of come-as-you-are show where we get on our kids horses and put on boots and helmets.
“There are definitely a lot of laughs.”
The 156th Ozaukee County Fair runs Wednesday, July 29 to Sunday, Aug. 2, at Firemen’s Park in Cedarburg. For a complete schedule of events, visit www.ozaukeecountyfair.com.
Image information: THE HOFFMANN CHILDREN Becky, 9, Maggie, 7, Nick, 11, Fritz, 4, and Amy, 12 on dun paint horse Leo, are the youngest of a horse riding family that includes mother Kate and grandmother
Cathie Urness. Photo by Sam Arendt