From “The Saddle Club” to the Winner’s Circle

Hope Clark, Student Life/ Design Editor

A five-year-old Grace McMurry sits in front of the television as “The Saddle Club” theme song fills the room. She becomes entranced with the tune of “Hello World” and is pulled into the world of horses along with Stevie, Carole and Lisa.

McMurry, now a senior, is still captivated by horses and competes in the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Medal, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (ASPCA) Maclay, Junior Equitation on the flat and over fences. She has been riding horses for 11 years and showing nationally for 8 years.

“I do horse shows because riding is my passion and I couldn’t imagine what life would be like without them,” McMurry said. “Horse shows can be stressful and taxing at times, but they can also be very fun and exciting.”

McMurry said she has competed in so many shows it is hard to keep count. Last year alone she participated in 23 shows in Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, California, Oklahoma, Washington and Colorado.

“I place in the top three in most of my classes and in 2012, I was Champion in Texas for Junior Equitation and two years before that I was Reserve Champion,” McMurry said. “My proudest moment showing horses was when I received Champion in Texas in Junior Equitation.”

McMurry is not alone at these horse shows though. Her parents come to every show to support her as do her two horses.

“I own one horse, Angelo, and I lease a second horse, Commander-In-Chief or Captain for short,” McMurry said. “What I like most about Angelo is his fluid canter and what I like most about Captain is his agility.”

Caring for these horses takes some time though. McMurry spends 15 to 25 hours at the Woodhill Farm each week to take care of her horses which she grooms, tacks, feeds, medicates and rides. She has done a Physical Education waiver all four years of high school.

“[I did it] so I could leave early to go ride horses and still acquire the necessary credits to graduate,” McMurry said. “Also, it allows me to leave school for horse shows and not have the absences count against me when it comes to being exempt from finals.”

Getting to miss school is not McMurry’s favorite part of showing horses though. Especially since the typical day is longer than school, starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 5 or 6 p.m.

“My favorite part about showing horses is getting to spend time with my horses and watching all of my friends compete,” she said.

There are challenging parts to showing horses though according to McMurry.

“The most difficult aspect of showing horses is working with an animal that has a mind of its own,” McMurry said. “You always have to take into account how your horse is feeling and adjust how you ride each day to make sure you and your horse are performing at your best.”

McMurry joined Rodeo Club this year with other students who can understand the struggles in riding horses and show McMurry other aspects of riding.

“I like getting to learn about another kind of horseback riding and getting to know some other horse lovers at the school,” she said.

These other “horse lovers” can relate to McMurry’s passion for the animal and the connection created with riding and caring for them.

“I love horses because they are such majestic creatures and just getting to be around them is a blessing,” McMurry said. “Horses have taught me how to be forgiving, strong, graceful and humble, but most of all they have taught me how to bond with another creature on such a deep level that both of you trust each other no matter what.”