Out of the saddle, 7-year-old Vanity McIntier can be a bit of a firecracker.

Out of the saddle, 7-year-old Vanity McIntier can be a bit of a firecracker.
She's young, full of energy and not one to be told what to do.
"She is a pretty wild child," said grandmother Angie Weir.
But put the Lakeside Elementary third-grader on her 15-year-old American Paint horse, Cherokee, and she nearly becomes the model of obedience — although if her horse could talk, he might have a different opinion.
"Vanity will fight with Cherokee if he wants to go one way but she wants to go the other," Weir, of Mulberry, said. "But for the most part, when she's on her horse, Vanity is dedicated and focused. She gets more serious when she's on the horse."
For McIntier, who finished as second runner-up in last night's Crawford County Fair Queen competition, riding horses is her first true love. Her passion for all things equestrian runs so deep that when asked what she would do if she couldn't ride horses, she replied, "Ride horses."
"I like spending time with my horse and running with my horse and petting my horse," she said, adding that if there were no horses, "I would die."
Within the story of the Pittsburg youngster and her horse — make no mistake, Cherokee is "her" horse — is a special bond of affection between a little girl and her grandmother.
Weir, who lives with her husband and four horses on an acre of land in Mulberry, plays host to McIntier once a week. It's their time to be together and to ride together. And as Weir would say Wednesday night at the fairgrounds, the horses ensure that the grandmother-granddaughter bond is never broken.
"This is what keeps us close," Weir said, saying shortly after that without the horses, the two might not spend as much time together as they currently do.
The duo are almost inseparable this week, as they are "rooming" together at the fairgrounds for at least three days. And like their owners, Cherokee and Weir's horse Pacific Blaze — 23-year-old registered Appaloosa — also like to stay close. So much so, in fact, the two rode side-by-side as McIntier entered the arena for the queen competition.
"They like to be near each other," Weir said.
It was by happenstance — or perhaps pure luck — that the two even met. Weir said she had a friend who previously owned Cherokee, but the owner-horse relationship didn't quite pan out.
"The girl who had him was scared of him," Weir said, "and I told them I think I know somebody who may like it."
So five years ago, Cherokee and young Vanity, who had already almost a year's experience with horses, crossed paths. They haven't left each other's side since.
"I love Cherokee," McIntier said. "I love everything about him."
Weir, who has spent 41 of her 53 years riding horses, said her granddaughter's skills, while advanced, could still use some fine-tuning.
"I think if she lived with me all the time, her skills would develop quicker," she said.
Asked whether or not she worries for her "little Vanity's" safety, Weir said she does, to an extent.
"Sure, I get concerned sometimes," she said. "But she does know what she's doing and I trust those two together."
Good thing. There's no getting them apart.