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Washington County Horse Council's Hunter Shows growing in popularity

July 10, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Kierstan Bailey guides Spring over a jump Sunday during the Washington County Horse Council's Hunter Show at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

SHARPSBURG — When Kelli Martin first got Shadow a few years ago, the paint thoroughbred once reared up on her back legs and flipped over.

The horse had been dropped off at New Beginnings Farm northwest of Hagerstown and she acted as if she had a history of abuse, Martin said Sunday.

One of the rider’s first sessions with the horse led to Shadow's new moniker, Pain in My Shadow, said Martin, 26, of Hagerstown.

Their ride was smoother Sunday with the pair earning the title of reserve champion in the horse pleasure adult division at the Washington County Horse Council's Hunter Show at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center south of Hagerstown.

More than 100 people turned out to watch the show. This is the third year the local horse council has held hunter shows, which include several jumping contests, said Maureen Gigeous, who co-chairs the hunter shows with Lori Bellerive.

“I guess it's one of those ‘build it and they will come' kind of things,” Gigeous said.

With 45 people entered in Sunday's show, entries have more than doubled since the first hunter show, Bellerive said. Some riders competed on more than one horse Sunday.

Gigeous said she and Bellerive, who both have had daughters compete in hunter shows, would have to drive 45 minutes to an hour to get to hunter shows before the local horse council starting having them here.

"This is the first time we've been here," said Julie Sites, whose daughter, Skylar, was competing on Josie. Normally, the family travels an hour to 90 minutes to get to hunter shows in Mount Airy, Md., or Gettysburg, Pa.

Skylar, 12, of Greencastle, Pa., said she enjoys ¿just getting ready for the show and showing people what we learned."

Matthew Harbaugh, 17, of Hagerstown, said he'd traveled as far as 90 minutes to compete.

On Sunday, he was competing with Risen, a quarter horse, and Jeter, a warmblood named for Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Jeter used to be a dressage horse and Sunday was his first jumping contest.

"He did very good," Matthew said.

Matthew said he likes the competition, loves the horses, and enjoys hanging out with friends and meeting new people.

In between his turns in the ring, he spent some time chatting with Lydia Gross, 27, of Marion, Pa., who was riding Enya — named for the singer.

"She's been doing this forever, but this is my first year," Gross said.

During one run, Enya refused to jump an 18-inch high bar so the pair went around it.

"She's good. I wasn't as confidant as I should have been," Gross said. The mother of a 3-year-old, Gross said she's been riding for three years, when she can find the time.

Enya is "more my backyard pleasure horse," Gross said. The pair began competing together in May.

Dozens of people sat in the sun or the shade of some trees to watch the show.

Barbara Howard, 57, of Hagerstown, stood in the shade holding the lead rope for Devil's Advocate as the horse chewed on the grass.

Her granddaughter, Cheyenne Kline, 11, of State Line, Pa., was set to compete with Devil's Advocate in six classes Sunday and had already secured a third-place finish in an 18-inch jump competition.

Asked what she liked about competing, Cheyenne said, "Everything."

"I think just being on the horse, period," Howard said.

The number of people who attended Sunday's show indicates horse sports are growing in Washington County, said Bill Moroney, president of the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association based in Lexington, Ky.

In the seven years since Moroney moved to Washington County, he said he¿s been amazed by how much horse sports have grown in the county.

"When a sport grows like that, it brings a lot of revenue to the towns, especially to smaller towns like Sharpsburg, Keedysville, those areas," said Moroney, of Keedysville.

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