- Associated Press - Sunday, November 23, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Bailey Hoff’s heart raced as she waited for her name to be called.

It was the end of the three-day contest for horse riders at the National Academy Championship Horse Show in Murfreesboro, Tenn., which drew in more than 700 hopeful riders from 15 states.

Their goal was to be crowned America’s best academy riders, a division that is designed for beginner horse riders who do not own their own horses. In this division competitors are judged in age-appropriate categories on their equitation, or how the riders handle their body while showing the horse.

Bailey was one of the riders who waited anxiously beside her trainer, Georgia Morrison of Meadow Dream Farm, and Rosie, the American Saddlebred horse she rode in the 9- and 10-year-old Walk and Trot Junior National Championship, for the results of the equestrian competition.

It all came down to this final moment for Bailey and other hopeful contestants who surrounded the arena, waiting to hear their names announced as the winner in their age division.

The announcers began naming the top 10 riders in Bailey’s class, which only added to her nerves.

“I was a little nervous because they did it backward,” she said.

Third place came and went. And then second.

She held her breath.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the announcer said her name - Bailey had won.

The 10-year-old had worked hard for that moment, tackling several hurdles along the way including convincing her parents to let her take lessons at an early age.

“She’s always wanted to ride a horse ever since she could talk, but we always thought she was too small,” said her mother, Terra Hoff.

In addition to their safety concerns, Bailey’s parents wanted to make sure this was an activity she really wanted to participate in. So they waited a couple years before agreeing to let her take a weekly horse-riding lesson at Meadow Dream Farm.

Morrison and her husband, Jimmy, own the farm in Nitro and live on-site. Their 30-stall facility offers a large lesson program to individuals with some or little experience.

She said their passion for riding and horses goes back as far as their childhood.

“My husband grew up with horses. His family owned a farm in Kentucky and he grew up riding, showing and competing. So he was kind of always into horses. I just loved horses as a child and didn’t start riding until I was about 12,” she said.

Since they began at Meadow Dream Farm, the couple has been able to train and produce several show and academy riders. She said they give nearly 100 lessons a week and compete in shows April through November.

During her first year taking lessons, Bailey trained with a different instructor until Morrison saw her ride at their annual Christmas Camp. It was then that she noticed her potential and knew with additional lessons she would excel at equestrian competitions.

“She showed a lot of natural ability,” Morrison said, adding that she encouraged her to take a couple more lessons a week to compete. “It’s been really fun to see Bailey progress as a rider.”

But Morrison said Bailey hit a rough patch after she got attached to a horse that she had practiced on all winter, Jacks. She said during this time she was doing great - she started the show season winning and had a great deal of confidence.

Shortly after, they didn’t have Jacks anymore and everything changed.

“It was kind of emotional and hard for heAn AP Member Exchange. Credit to the member is mandatoryr - you get attached to a horse, especially once you’ve shown and have been successful with it,” she said. “I was really concerned for Bailey because she really got attached and felt like she needed that one particular horse to win. She just was kind of down and didn’t have the confidence that she needed to have.”

They paired her up with Rosie, the horse she rode at the National Academy Championship Horse Show, but the two had a somewhat rocky start.

Both Morrison and Bailey’s parents were worried about her getting on a different horse when she was not confident.

“If you’re not confident when you get on then they are going to take advantage of that,” Hoff said, adding horses are very sensitive to the rider’s emotions. “It can be dangerous.”

But slowly and surely Bailey’s confidence returned just in time for competitions that gave her the push she needed.

Morrison and Terra said they are thrilled with the progress she has made and are excited to see what she can accomplish next. In addition to taking lessons and competing, Bailey is also a part of the River City Youth Ballet Ensemble and takes dance lessons as well.

“She’s had some obstacles, but she’s done very well,” Terra said. “I’m very proud. She makes straight As too.”

For more information about Meadow Dream Farm, call (304) 755-3921 or visit meadowdreamfarm.com.


Information from: Charleston Daily Mail, https://www.charlestondailymail.com

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