Chambersburg, Pa., teen riding high on competition wins

January 12, 2012|By SHADAE PAUL | Special to The Herald-Mail

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. —  Hard work and dedication have paid off for Colleen Hoover of Chambersburg, as she and her 11-year-old, Appaloosa mare, Daisy, were named national champions in Youth Showmanship and Youth Horsemanship last month.

The competition took place on Saturday, Dec. 17, in Myakka City, Fla. The one-day show brought out competitors of different ages and classes showcasing their skills and techniques learned from rigorous training.

Colleen, who competes in the youth showmanship class, said she realized that this win has solidified her as a tour-de-force. Thanks to this national championship, she is now leading the nation in her class.

"This is a big accomplishment for me showing with this breed at that level," she said.

Colleen, 17, and Daisy add this championship to their impressive resume of awards. Together the pair competed in the 2011 World Championship Appaloosa Youth Show in Tulsa, Okla., where they placed fifth out of 72 competitors in English Showmanship, ages 18 and younger, and 10th in the world out of 28 entries in Trail.

During competitions, riders are given a pattern to execute and are judged accordingly. The judges are meticulous and have a keen eye to spot any mistakes.

"They give you five minutes and a pattern to run through," Colleen said. "Then the judges score you based on how you did in the pattern."

Both rider and mare have to be as one — moving with confidence, precision and grace. Colleen, a senior at Chambersburg Area Senior High School, compares the geometry of the patterns to mathematics.

"It's like math — you have to do very straight lines, very equal circles (and) figure eights, and backing perfectly straight," Hoover said.

Colleen's competitive drive to excel at shows is rooted in her love for horses.

"My mom had horses when I was little, so I used to ride them and got intrigued by it," she said.

At age 7, Colleen asked her mom, Cynthia Wyrick, if she could show. Wyrick said yes.

At first, Colleen competed at local shows.

"We started at the bottom and worked our way up," Wyrick said. "She's had trainers on and off, but she's self-motivated."

Colleen had always been attracted to the signature appearance of the Appaloosa breed so, in 2008, when she had the opportunity to buy Daisy, a beautiful, well-bred, champion mare, she accepted. Daisy is also known on the show circuit as Elusive Impression.

By the end of that year's show season, the pair had won many awards and accolades, including the 2008 Appaloosa Competitive All-Breed Activities Program Western Pleasure Championship.

Although Colleen is independent, she has excelled with some help from trainers.

"I think it is rewarding to know that I am self-taught. I've gotten help from trainers but it's good knowing I did it by myself, not having a $100,000 horse," she said.

Leading up to the national competition, Colleen practiced after school and on the weekends with Daisy, at home and at nearby Wilson College. She reviewed patterns from past shows, picking them at random and practicing to smooth out the imperfections.

"You always have to be on your game. That is the hardest thing to deal with," Colleen said. "All of the preparation and work that goes into it is based on getting yourself and your horse ready."

Colleen said she was nervous being at the big national show.

"It is rough because you can have one bad day, and you can lose points," she said.

Throughout practices and shows Colleen remains inspired by her mom, who she said is her biggest support system.

"We started out trying to see how far we could go and this is where are now," Wyrick said. "We tried to set a different goal every year — some year's goals are bigger than others, depending on what we're doing in our lives."

Later this year, Colleen will compete for the second time in the 2012 World Championship Appaloosa Youth Show, in Tulsa, where she would like to win reserve or a championship. Her national championship win has brought her one step closer to realizing this dream.

But, for now, Colleen is proud of her national championship.

"It was cool winning the competition in Florida," she said.

And for Colleen, it was more than just the win. It was about the journey.

"You have to have a lot of heart and work really hard at it. You have to encourage yourself to go as far as you want," she said.

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