Young riders compete at horse shows in the sun At home, they face chores, challenges
Ten years of riding instruction, supportive parents, and a passion for horses created an opportunity for Kim Rounds, a Bear River freshman, to excel in her division jumping this month in Thermal, Calif.
The desert community near Palm Springs hosts the HITS show, named “Horse shows in the sun.” At this time of year are the largest on the West Coast. More than 2,000 competitors gather for the hunter and show jumper classes.
The show offers a wide range of competitors. At the entry level, ponies carry small children over jumps. At the prestigious Grand Prix level, some of the best horses and riders in the world compete for high stakes, riding over large and beautiful courses designed by international experts.
Rounds won first places at HITS with both her horses, Atlas Shrugged and Lakota. With the imported Dutch warmblood gelding, Lakota, she also won her first “A” circuit championship.
Competing both horses in the low childrens/adult jumpers, she missed a reserve championship aboard Atlas Shrugged by knocking down a single rail! There were as many as 65 competitors in those classes.
Zach Salmassy, in his first show of this caliber, placed third twice in the same division.
“Kim and I learned so much,” he said.
Important things Rounds learned at Thermal “were the behind-the-scenes stuff, particularly horsemanship arts, such as putting studs into the horses shoes for traction on grass,” she said.
They were exposed to “the best in the world” – horses, riders, trainers and grooms, as well as learning about the highest quality of show organization, jumps and courses, appreciation of sponsors, and in general the sportsmanship and professionalism required at the top of this sport.
“Olympic medalists were so nice,” Rounds said. “They were normal and interesting, too, when not around horses.”
She observed training methods, riding styles, and winning techniques in helping horses to jump better during the two weeks of intensive showing.
And incidentally, they kept up with their school work, too!
Chores at home
Student riders face real challenges balancing school schedules with competitions. Unlike popular school team sports, where players – if they have met the requirements – routinely participate in both practice and games, often missing school, horseback riders are on their own to gain permission to participate in their demanding sport.
Southern California’s Interscholastic Equestrian League, made up of both public and private schools, addressed this issue at least 25 years ago.
Schools have “frowned upon commitment to a sport they don’t understand,” Rounds said.
Salmassy, a student at Sierra Academics Charter School in Auburn, finds great support for his passion. Both riders are excellent students, with Rounds taking a Sierra College course in Spanish.
Both youngsters have two horses to ride, one owned and one leased. They each spend an average of 10 hours a week riding and schooling their mounts, and receive about five hours of instruction from their trainer, Sarah Ballou, per week.
Even with their horses boarded out, they spend hours bathing and grooming, feeding supplements, cleaning tack, blanketing, wrapping legs, and doing paper-work associated with horse care and showing.
Rounds’ own horse “Grande,” a huge Selle Francaise thoroughbred gelding is 18 hands tall (a hand measurement is four inches, so he is six feet tall at his shoulder), eats six flakes of high quality hay a day in addition to oats, vitamins and LMF Performance feed!
Kim would like to successfully compete at the 4’6″ height before she goes to college.
Rounds’ family has horses and cattle, and from an early age her love for animals was obvious.
She began lessons at 5, and won her first show ribbon – a 5th in walk-trot – at a Blue Fountain Farm show.
Rounds has been a member of 4-H, FFA, and Pony Club. She is raising her third steer for the Nevada County Fair, hoping to sell again at the Junior Livestock Auction. Throughout the years she has ridden Western and English, gathered cattle, raced in gymkhana and “had lots of fun.”
She plans to participate in a ranch roping clinic to be held at my family’s Emigrant Springs Ranch, where she has trained, March 28-30.
Sharon Rounds accompanies her daughter when she rides and shows. She finds the sport has helped her daughter “deal with stress and to focus.”
Young riders “learn responsibility,” Sharon Rounds said. “This is a big time commitment when you have such an investment.”
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