Morgan Nicholas’ Christmas gift could give her a world championship in a few short weeks.
Nicholas, a 10-year-old girl who lives in Hagerstown, will ride Paradigm Pageantry — a horse her parents, Paul and Heather Nicholas, bought for her last Christmas — at the Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show in Oklahoma City from Oct. 8-15.
“It’s a family investment, but it was a present at Christmas time and it’s been good,” Heather Nicholas said. “We did it kind of like a surprise party. We had all the girls at the barn (Trotwood Stables in Greencastle, Pa.) for a Christmas party and we were playing something like pictionary, and they were doing names of the horses in the barn and they did Paradigm Pageantry and Morgan said, ‘Who’s that?’ and they drew a Christmas tree on the paper and told her it was her Christmas present.
“She was speechless. She looked at me, and we told her she could go ride, and she said, ‘I don’t have any clothes!’ Then she asked me again, ‘Is she really mine?’ and she started crying.”
“I can remember when I first got a horse, so being able to see Morgan, she was totally confused,” said Elizabeth Fawcett, a 20-year-old Hagerstown resident who also will compete in Oklahoma City for Trotwood Stables. “She didn’t know what was going on, and then she was shocked. You could tell the exact moment she knew this horse was hers and she would get to ride her.”
Morgan Nicholas will compete for two world championships — the Walk Trot Hunt Seat Equitation 11-under division and the Walk Trot Hunter Pleasure 11-under division — as well as the Grand National 10-year-old Walk Trot Hunt Seat Equitation and Pleasure divisions. She qualified for the world championships by winning both the equitation and pleasure classes at the Southern States Regional in Raleigh, N.C., in May.
“In her equitation classes, they will be judging her overall posture, presence and control of her horse,” said Kara Hose, the daughter of Trotwood Stables owners Ron and Coni Hose, who herself is a multiple-time world and national champion.
“You have to be able to maneuver around the ring in a field of at least 20, which is challenging because she’s 10,” Hose said. “The judges have to see something extra special. There’s a lot of charisma and ring presence involved. The pleasure classes place more emphasis on the horse, but it still needs to be a well-matched team.”
“It’s a lot of work, and she puts a lot of time into it, riding and doing all the things you need to do to take care of a horse,” Heather Nicholas said. “She really enjoys it and has a lot of passion for it.”
Fawcett won a national championship at age 16 and has been showing horses for 11 years. She will be competing in the American Morgan Horse Association Hunt Seat Gold Medal preliminary — in a field of 50 riders — aboard Kane Creek Oregon Reign. The top 12 to 15 riders will compete for the gold medal later in the championships.
“The division is based on the form of the rider, posture, leg and hand positions, and you’re asked to do a pattern at the end of the class that consists of a figure-eight, circles, counter canters and no stirrup segments,” Fawcett said. “It’s different every time.”
Fawcett’s fifth trip to the world championships is one she didn’t expect to make. She sold her horse to help pay for college at Towson University, where she studies full-time. But the age limit for her division was increased from 17 to 21, and the Nicholases originally agreed to let Fawcett ride Paradigm Pageantry before Trotwood Stables’ recent purchase of Kane Creek Oregon Reign.
“This is something I wanted to do,” Fawcett said.
Morgan Nicholas and Fawcett are both trained by Ashley Stine, the residing trainer at Trotwood Stables.
“Ashley feels priveleged to teach the girls at such a prestigious level,” Hose said.
Hose also plans to compete in Oklahoma City aboard her horse — Epona’s Mo’o Lio, stabled at Merriehill Farm in Marengo, Ill. — in three Hunter Pleasure 3-year-old divisions: The World Championships, the Futurity World Championships and the Grand National stallion and gelding division. Her qualifying will take place at the Jubilee Regional Championships in Springfield, Ill., from Aug. 31 to Sept. 3.
“Showing a 3-year-old is hard because they are young and you have to be ready for anything,” said Hose.
Fawcett and the Nicholases are raising funds for the trip to Oklahoma City, including sandwich sales at Kline’s Grocery in Greencastle and a fundraiser at Cici’s Pizza in Hagerstown scheduled for Sept. 8 from 5 to 8 p.m. Donations can be mailed to Trotwood Stables at 9867 Grindstone Hill Rd., Greencastle, PA 17225.