|2/2/2010 12:17:00 PM|
Sisters rider is tall in the saddle
The equestrian sport of three-day-eventing has a healthy following in Central Oregon, and one Sisters barn came away with champion riders at the recent United States Eventing Association Area 7 awards banquet. (Area 7 covers Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.)
|Karen O’Neal soared into Rider of the Year status in Pacific Northwest eventing circles. photo by Tim O'Neal
Karen O'Neal, owner and instructor at O'Neal Farms, was one of the champions, bringing home top honors in Open Preliminary. She also picked up the Northwest Rider of the Year award, and her horse, True Avenue, was Horse of the Year. O'Neal is ranked 36th out of the top 50 eventing riders in the nation. She freely admits to Olympic aspirations.
Three of her students also came away with champion and reserve champion honors. Samantha Novotny, 15, was Reserve Champion at Junior Training level. Patience O'Neal, 10, was Reserve Champion at Junior Novice level.
Kaleigh Holland was Reserve Champion in Open Preliminary. Holland, a Canadian, has spent the past three years as a working student with O'Neal.
The large geographic area covered by Area 7 means that most riders choose carefully which shows they attend. O'Neal mentioned that several of her students did well during the season but didn't amass the points needed for end-of-year honors.
Katie Yozamp, 16, had a successful run until her horse suffered an injury near the end of the season. Olivia Chandler, 14, was able to advance to another level during the season, finishing at training level. Langley Vogt, 12, won two events on her pony, Christopher Robin.
Throughout the season, which runs from May through October, O'Neal's students are known for their enthusiasm and work ethic. It's rare to find paid grooms and day-care for the horses at regional events.
"The kids do their own horses and help each other," said O'Neal. "We set a high standard, and people who've stabled near us at shows comment on how great the kids are."
While all competitive equestrian sport has seen a drop in participation due to the economy, eventing has suffered less than other disciplines. O'Neal credits the self-reliant aspect of the sport plus the known costs of competition as the main contributors to the vibrancy of the discipline.
"It's a lot of fun, too," she added.
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