- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

POTLATCH, Idaho (AP) - Marcia Moore Harrison has spent her entire life developing relationships with horses - and learning their personalities.

Her background in nurturing those relationships is what the Potlatch horse trainer credits for her recent success at the American Horsewoman’s Challenge in Guthrie, Okla., where she placed sixth overall. The challenge is a competition for women to demonstrate their skills as a trainer and as a team with their horse.

“With my horse training, it’s about the relationship, so I feel that my foundation - everything up to this point, up to this competition - has helped me,” Harrison said.

Harrison, 52, grew up outside Potlatch and began riding horses when she was just 18 months old. She said her parents, Don and Betty Nagle, have a photo of her at that age riding into their hunting camp on her own horse.

“It was almost like I didn’t have a choice,” she said with a laugh.

At 13, she began training horses professionally. When she graduated from Potlatch High School, she enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, following in her father’s footsteps. She served for three years, during which time she went about a year without riding a horse - the longest period in her life.

Harrison returned to the Palouse, where she resumed horse training and opened her business, MM Training and Consulting, in 1993. She later attended the University of Idaho and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2001.

She has since applied what she learned in school to horse training. Harrison said she adapted a color-based personality test for humans to horses, making it easier for trainers to identify factors in the owner’s relationship with their horse.

“That’s been kind of revolutionary,” she said.

Harrison said she applied all of her education, experience and skills to get her horse, Black Stretch Limo - Stretch for short - trained for the horsewoman’s challenge. The competition that occurred this past weekend required contestants to train horses that had been ridden fewer than 10 times in only six months.

“The whole six month thing was like a marathon,” Harrison said.

Preparing for the competition and executing the three different disciplines - liberty, cowboy dressage and extreme cowboy race, plus an additional freestyle routine for placing in the top 10 - was challenging and exhilarating, Harrison said. But it was also emotionally and physically draining.

She was selected as one of 50 women from the United States and Canada to compete in the challenge. Harrison said the women ranged in age from 19 to more than 60, and to her surprise, all showed great support and encouragement for others.

“I can’t say enough about the women,” she said. “And they’re fierce competitors. They’re fierce competitors - it’s not like they were wanting someone else to win.”

Harrison placed in the top 10 for both liberty - a category that requires on-the-ground maneuvering of the horse without any physical contact, even a rope or bridle - and the extreme cowboy race. She described the race as “gritty cowgirl stuff” and said it was essentially a timed obstacle course.

“It was a race, but it’s trail obstacles so you had to do it correctly,” she said.

Her strongest event was the cowboy dressage where she placed first. Harrison said she anticipated doing well in that event because of the focus of her business. Cowboy dressage emphasizes a demonstration of precision and lightness while performing tasks like weaving in and out of tightly spaced barrels topped with wine glasses of juice.

“It’s all about really good horsemanship,” Harrison said. “They don’t tolerate disrespect for the horse. They’ll throw you out.”

She also completed a freestyle routine for placing in the top 10 overall. Harrison said she crafted her routine to honor three important aspects of her life: God, the military and her father, who is her inspiration for horse training.

Harrison said she could not have done the competition - or the six months leading up to it - without the assistance of her team comprised of Kori Smith and Davalee Minden, or the support of her family, including her four children and husband, Joe, friends and clients. It was the first time Harrison could recall her children coaching her instead of the other way around.

“Overall, I’m very pleased,” she said. “Very pleased with my horse. To win something like that you’ve got to select a good horse. When you have a good horse, a lot of your training is done.”

___

Information from: Lewiston Tribune, https://www.lmtribune.com

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