Becoming Best Child Rider

Becoming Best Child Rider


I have been riding horses since I was born. My mom was big with the whole horses thing too. I grew up with horses being a part of my normal day. My mom used to board horses at our stable and gave riding lessons. At one time we had over 20 horses in our barn. The first horse that I had ever ridden was a black pony named Jake. He was extremely old and had been around since my oldest brother was born, who is 12 years older than me. I never really did much on him, basically just walking. I learned how to ride on another pony of mine named Popcorn. Popcorn was a 14 hand appaloosa pony. She was lazy and really slow, but I was just beginning to learn how to ride so it didn’t really matter. She taught me how to walk, trot, and canter. I still had so much more to learn even though I thought I knew it all.

The first horse that I learned how to jump on was named Red. I named her Red because, yes she was red. She was kind of old, about 18 so I had to add strides to all of my lines. I still remember the first day I jumped. I was riding Red at my house after school like I always had. I had just finished cantering and my mom told me okay now go jump that cross rail over there. I was scared because I had never jumped before and just said umm are you sure? My mom replied with a simple yup. As I picked up my trot and guided my horse to the fence my mom yelled out reminders like keep your heels down, and calves on. Then as I got about 2 strides out she told me to take 2 point. I did what she said and my pony hopped over the fence and cantered away. Even though the fence was barely a foot high, it seemed to me like it was 3 feet. I was so excited but shaky at the same time. Jumping that first fence was exhilarating in a way that nothing else has ever been. I knew from that moment on that riding horses was what I wanted to do. I knew it was something that I could never quit no matter what happened. I continued riding Red and jumping her more and more each time I rode. Finally show season came along and my trainer at Windsong Stable said that I was ready to take Red to the schooling show. This would be my first horse show ever. It’s only a training level show, so the points don’t count, but to me it was huge. I was about 8 years old at the time. The day came and I was entered in the walk trot canter classes as well as the cross pole classes. There wasn’t really a course just two outside lines. I was so nervous waiting for my turn to go into the ring, I could hardly talk to anyone. I sat there in the silence watching the girl go in ahead of me. She finished her trip and came out of the ring, now it was my turn. I walked into the ring and picked up my canter, did my courtesy circle and headed for the first line. I waited for the fence and then got into my two point. Red found the perfect spot and cantered away to the next jump, and the next, and the next. We finished our round and trotted out of the ring. My mom and trainer were so happy with my trip. I didn’t have much to say, I was almost to happy for words. I went back and did 3 more classes and a few flat classes. At the end of the day they starting announcing championships. I thought no way am I going to win at my first show ever. They called the riders into the center of the ring and started to announce names of rider and horse pairs. 3 horses had been called and still not me, which was good because they go in reverse order. I was now getting more and more excited with every name they called knowing that I was one step closer to the blue ribbon. Finally it was down to me and one other girl frozen in time, afraid to move, waiting for the final results. I heard the click of the microphone and held my breath. They called out a riders number, which did not belong to me, for second place. I let out my breath and waited as they called first place to Angela Polmanteer and her pony Dressed in Red. I was so excited I had no words to express it. I walked out of the ring with my mom smiling big waiting to congratulate me. At the very end of the show over the announcements they gave the championships. I had received equitation champion and my pony had received hunter champion. It was wonderful to have done so well at my first show. I kept going to shows on Red that summer and kept winning. Every win was more exciting than the last, knowing that there was a huge amount of hope for me doing well. I had a great first show season on Red, but she was starting to get to old to do the jumping anymore. That meant a new horse for me.

After many weeks of searching for a new pony, me and my mom had finally found one in Iowa. We drove five hours there from Michigan so I could ride him and try him out. I loved him. His name was Teddy and I seemed to think that he was the cutest thing ever. He was very well trained for only being 4 years old. He could jump 3 feet and had automatic lead changes. We bought him that day, put him in the trailer, and drove him back home. I had my first lesson at Windsong on him shortly after his arrival in Michigan. I thought that this lesson would be so much fun, that he was going to be perfect, but boy was I wrong. As soon as I got him into the ring he started spooking sideways at everything and was swapping leads down the straightaway. I got threw the flatwork and now it was time to jump. When I turned him towards our warm up fence, which was only about 1”9’ he put his ears up and arched his neck. He looked hard at it and when we got close slammed on the brakes and wouldn’t go over the fence. He refused throughout the entire lesson. It was so frustrating thinking I had this great horse and he wasn’t. After my lesson I started crying. My mom told me we would get better but I just didn’t believe it.

After my awful lesson things starting improving each time I rode Teddy. He was getting better each day and I was starting to trust him more and more. He was still kind of stubborn but it didn’t seem to matter to me anymore. Other people had wanted to give up on him, saying that I was to young to handle him, but I was going to prove them wrong. Every day I worked hard and made sure to do everything my trainer told me. I listened and really thought about what she told me to do. We were growing stronger each day as a pair. Yeah, it was hard sometimes to have people telling you you couldn’t do something, but it made it easier to want to do it, to prove them wrong. We spent a whole year just working out all of the kinks. I didn’t get to go to any shows that year, but it was fine with me, I was going to be ready the next season. I worked hard through the winter, focusing and never letting my attention be on other things when I was riding. Show season rolled around and I was finally ready. This time I was doing LEHS shows which was still training circuit, but a step up from what I had been doing on Red. At the end of the year they would have a banquet and you would get trophies for highest accumulated points throughout the year. When I went to my first show with Teddy my trainer had to get on him because the second I got into the arena to school he took off with me. At the time I was only about 10 and not strong enough to control him yet. So Sandi, my trainer got on him and rode him around for me so he could see all of the jumps. Once she had ridden him for a while I got to get on. He was fine now and listened to me like he had when we were working at home. The next day was the actual showing day. I was so nervous of him taking off again, but I was not going to chicken out. I still had people to prove wrong, to prove that I was a good rider. I went out to the schooling ring to jump a few warm up jumps before taking him into the show ring. He seemed fine and actually surprisingly calm for him. I was feeling very confident that I could pull this off. I went up to the show ring and waited for my number to be called to go into the ring. Once I heard my number I walked up to the gate. My trainer told me good luck and to remember to have fun. I started out with my circle as always and then pointed teddy at my first jump. We went cantering to it in perfect stride length. He took the jump without a problem. I rode down to the end of the ring, did my lead change and turned him towards the diagonal line. He jumped in nicely and made it out in the planned six strides. I jumped my outside line, then single, then other diagonal. I finished my course with a huge smile on my face. Over the weekend I did many other classes and finished out my great weekend with hunter champion and equitation reserve champion.

I had had a great show season the previous year on Teddy jumping 2 feet. The next show season came around and I was ready to show in the 2”3’ division. We had another great year and qualified for the finals at Meadowview farms. When the finals came around I was nervous. Especially about the course. They had two rings set up next to each other with about 5 feet in between them. They had taken out a panel of fence at each end of both rings and put a jump in the now open space. You had to complete one course in the first ring and then jump a jump to get into the other ring and complete a course in that ring, without stopping. The horses are used to having to jump about 8 or nine jumps in a course but never 14 jumps. I was so nervous about forgetting the course too. I had never had to remember that many jumps and their order before. So to help memorize it I went out before I had to show and watched other people ride the course. I counted strides in bending lines and even the rollbacks. I took note of which turns to take when doing the s curves and which jumps to go around when doing my rollbacks. When the time finally came to go into the ring my heart was racing at a million times a second. When I had finished the first course and was heading to the jump to get into the other ring I could feel Teddy backing off of the jump he saw ahead. He put his ears up, swished his tail, and rounded his neck. I knew what was coming so I sat down, arched my back, closed my right rein and opened my left while I held my calf on tight. He kept cantering forward and took the jump at a perfect distance. I finished the second course and jumped back into the other and finished it all out with my courtesy circle. I was so afraid of that course but it turned out to be one of the most fun and unique courses I had ever jumped. Later they called a few people back into the ring to test. The test was like a second round to narrow the riders down. At the end they called everyone back into the center ring and started calling out numbers and names in reverse order as always. They called 9th, 8th,7th, and 6th and I still hadn’t been called. Then they called 5th, 4th, and 3rd and Still my name had not been called. There were three more people left and only two spots. Again I heard the microphone click back on and held my breath. My number was 237, the number called for 2nd place was 245. I wanted to let out my breath, but knew there was still someone standing beside me waiting to be called as well. Then I heard the announcer start talking “ and the blue medal goes to….Angela Polmanteer! Number 237.” They put the medal around my neck and handed me my flowers and plaque while I listened to the cheering and shutter of cameras. I handed my flowers and plaque down to my trainer after pictures had been taken. I now got to take my victory gallop around the ring. It was one of the most memorable days of my life.

I soon outgrew Teddy. I was to tall to ride him anymore and he couldn’t jump as high as I needed him to. I had to sell him which was one of the hardest things for me. I cried for weeks wishing I could get him back. Sometimes when I think about him and how far he took me I still shed a tear. After we had sold Teddy we got me a new horse named Polo. Polo was my first horse, not pony. Polo could do the 3”6’ jumpers and was an equitation horse. When I went to try him I instantly fell in love with him. He was a very good horse always doing what I asked and listening to my signals. He would jump from anywhere you asked, no matter how bad the spot. He got a little crazy at times and would take off. Other times he would be dead quite and calm. I had to learn how to ride all of the different horses this one horse seemed to have inside him. It was difficult but not to bad. He was my first “A” circuit horse which is the second to highest level of riding you can be at. He took me to my first A show called Stoney Ridge. He was really great for me and we ended up winning the $500 ride for the ribbon classic. It was a three round phase where you would go in and do your first course and you would get a score out of 100. If your score was above a certain number than you would go back to do the second course and get another score. If you scores combined were good enough then the judge would call you back into the ring and give you a test. You would have to jump certain jumps in a certain order. The judge wouldn’t point out to you which jumps to jump. He would just say fence 4,9,7,3 in that order and you would have to have the jump numbers memorized before the test. After the test is when you will get your final placing. I went to most of A shows that year and even went to a AA show at the very end of the year. AA shows are as high as it gets. I was actually winning money and getting paid in certain classes. The AA shows have a lot bigger jumps and more eccentric jumps than usual. Polo was not used to seeing these kind of jumps, although we thought he would be fine. Unfortunately we were wrong. When I went in for my first class I could tell that Polo was different. He had his head in the air and his tail up. His trot was much more prancier and his strides were much shorter. I knew he was going to be bad and I thought I could handle it. The second I turned him to the first jump he took off sideways bucking and galloping. I sat down and pulled hard on the reins trying to slow him. When I finally collected him back I took him back to the first jump and tried again but he did the same thing. You only get three refusals in a course so I only had one chance left before I got disqualified. This time I took my crop and tapped him behind my leg to let him know he wasn’t getting away with this. I got him over the first fence and then turned a sharp left to my next. He took off again and wouldn’t jump. I got disqualified. I was so frustrated with him. He had never done something like that before and I was definitely not prepared for it. That was my last show that season and I ended on a terrible note. So I wanted to work even harder than before that winter to come back and redeem myself.

That winter I was at the barn everyday right after school until dark. I worked on every maneuver and signal possible. I did my counter canter, lead changes up the center, turn on the haunches, crossing patterns, and doing constant work without my stirrups. I was going to be ready when show season came. That summer at my first show, which I was jumping 3 feet for the first time, went very well. I placed first in a few of my classes. The summer was going great just as it had the year before until that final show. I had a new show coming up that I had not been to before called Metamora Hunt. I was excited to get to go to a new show that year. When I was schooling Polo was perfect. I got all of my distances and leads perfectly. When it was time to show I went through whole routine and ended up with 3 firsts 2 seconds and some lower ribbons here and there. The next day I kept up my game and kept placing first in my classes. This was probably one of the best show yet. When I was done showing for the day I took Polo out to get his bath. I was waiting in line when I heard the announcer saying something about the best child rider award being announced soon. I figured that it probably wouldn’t be me so I continued to wait in line. I hear the microphone click on and they start talking about the history of the best child rider award. They then proceeded to tell what you need to have done to get this award. One of my friends named Liz that rides at the same barn as me came running up to me and said she had heard the judge talking to the announcer and that I was getting the best child rider award so I needed to get on my horse now! Just as she finished talking I heard the announcer say “and the best child rider of 2008 is Angela Polmanteer!” I let a quite scream of excitement and hurried back to the barn. Liz tacked up my horse while I put my show clothes back on. I hopped on my horse and trotted down to the ring. When I got there I was told to go into the center of the ring. The judge came out with a huge trophy, plaque and flowers. I held the flowers while she stood next to me holding the trophy. I tried to quickly memorize everything about that moment in time. The way the my horse kept his ears up trying to look good for the cameras, the sound of a million cameras shuttering, the flash of cameras in my eyes, the way the rain still hung in the air as a mist and the fresh earthy smell of the rain. The way the jumps were shining, the color of the bright green grass and the way that the moment I was waiting for for so long was finally here. The moment couldn’t have been more perfect or felt more right. I’ve wanted an award like this showing at this top level since I was 3. Now I was 14 and already fulfilling my dreams.

I continued to show Polo at the A shows and had a great year. I got to go to Horse Shows by the Bay in Traverse City again for three weeks, only this time Polo was great. I still own Polo but am looking for a new horse to ride in the Maclay Championships. The Maclay is the top award in a juniors riding career. If you can win that then you go on as an adult rider to show in the top competition grand prix’s around the world. In order to show in the Maclay you have to qualify at many horse shows throughout the summer by winning first place in about four competitions. If I can pull it together and be ready in one month when the show season starts, qualify for the Maclay, and win the championship I would be the youngest rider in history to win the Maclay. Winning the Maclay is my ultimate dream, and even if I don’t win this year and make history, I know I will be able to fulfill my dream eventually. Because riding horses is like my drug that I just can’t live without, I will never quit.





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