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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Horse heaven on earth at 4-H show

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

(Photo)
DeAnna Wermert, left, makes sure her daughter Anna is ready to ride in her ranch horse class on Roany, in last weekend's State 4-H Horse Championship.
(T-G Photo by Mary Reeves)
It was a spiritual buffet for the horse lover's soul last week at Calsonic Arena, with horses and riders coming from all over Tennessee to compete in the State 4-H Horse Championships.

There were many breeds: quarter horse, thoroughbred, Arabian, Morgan, Tennessee Walking Horse, POA. There was every color imaginable, from flea-bitten gray to golden palomino. Polo and cross-country were just about the only horse-related events that weren't represented. Yet.

But most of all, there were riders. Youth from 4-H programs gathered to not only share their skills in the saddle, but their knowledge.

"4-H has really helped me," said Carley Comer of the Tri-Cities area in eastern Tennessee, there with her appendix quarter horse Major Drumroll Please. "We had a judging team last year and I can see where it helps people out, It helped me lick out the finer horses."

(Photo)
Carley Comer, right, has had Major only nine months, but it's easy to see the rapport horse and rider have already established.
(T-G Photo by Mary Reeves)
Carley, 16, is an old hand at the state championship, but it was Major's first trip. Together, the pair also competed in the IEA (Interscholastic Equitation Association) Nationals this year, placing ninth.

"It's a great story," said her mother, Elisa. "She used to be deathly afraid of horses."

Despite having an uncle with a barn full of horses, Carley was frightened of them and refused to ride. But one day, her father was taking riding lessons at a local stable, and Carley was coaxed onto the back of a tiny pony. "I rode one lap around and was hooked," she said.

She said 4-H has also helped her learn more about horses, which also helps conquer fear.

Alivia Cotter of Gatlinburg, who turned 12 Saturday, was making her first appearance at the state show, although she and her POA Shadow are regulars at the regionals. The petite girl and petite pony made big jumps in grand style.

"4-H has helped me with my jumping seat," she said. "It also give some stuff to do on my walking horse."

Murfreesboro's Anna Wermert got into the 4-H program through her trainer, Courtney Smith, who encourages it strongly because it produces a well-rounded horseman. Like a lot of girls, her age, 10-year-old ("11 in August!" she said) Anna got bit by the horse fever bug and after a while, her mother offered to get her lessons. That was how she met Courtney and discovered the 4-H program. It was also how she met Roany, her leased lesson horse, that she was riding in the state competition in the ranch horse class.

Mom, DeAnna Wermert, didn't object too strongly when Anna said she wanted to ride.

"As a girl, I seldom got to ride, but I loved it," she said. "When she started taking lessons, I thought, 'Why not?'"

Now she, Anna and Anna's brother ride together. The next step, as far as Anna is concerned, is going equine shopping. Maybe next year, she'll be back at the state championship with a horse of her own.

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