Local horse reiner qualifies for nationals in Kentucky | VailDaily.com

Local horse reiner qualifies for nationals in Kentucky

Charlie Sue Pates, center, studies a horse at Interscholastic Equestrian Association Zone 8 Western Reining Finals in Arizona March 19. Pates will compete at the reining national finals in Kentucky April 20-24.
Special to the Daily |

EAGLE — Local Charlie Sue Pates, 15, is headed to Kentucky, where horse reining will take center stage at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association National Finals.

Reining, known for its thrilling descents down the arena to graceful sliding stops, is among the fastest growing and most popular Western equine sports around the world. A judged event, reining is designed to show the athletic ability of a ranch-type horse within the confines of a show arena. The general description and judging rules state, “To rein a horse is not only to guide him but also to control his every movement. The best reined horse should be willingly guided or controlled with little or no apparent resistance and dictated to completely.”

Pates earned her invite to nationals earlier this month at the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Zone 8 Western Finals in Arizona, where she qualified to ride as an individual reining rider and then was selected to ride as her Team Reining Open Varsity representative for the Varsity Open Level. Winning both categories, Pates qualifies for national finals and has qualified her Western Varsity Open Rocky Mountain Wranglers Reining Team for Team Finals, part of the same event in Lexington, Kentucky, April 20-24. Pates was one of only eight Varsity Open Reiners chosen from the U.S. to compete at nationals.

“The program really tests the skill of the rider because competitors draw a horse and then show that horse without even being allowed to warm them up or ride them,” Pates said. “The riders are actually led out into the arena by a handler and then they have to perform while trying to figure out the horse.”

The format, challenging as it may sound, has opened the sport up to many who would have not otherwise been able to compete in equine sports.

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“That’s why the (Interscholastic Equestrian Association) is so great,” Pates said. “We aren’t bringing our horses place to place, which is really expensive. … You can have kids competing and they don’t have to worry about having the cost of owning their own horse.”

Even without the horse, the travel part of the sport is a challenge. For the Pates family, which has one kid in college at the University of Colorado Boulder and another competing around the world as a pro snowboarder, the time and expense of travel can get daunting towards the tail end of a long season. Earlier this year, Charlie Sue went to Norway to watch her brother Jake compete in the Youth Olympic Games, where he won gold in both the halfpipe and slopestyle snowboarding competitions.

“It was so cool getting to watch him compete,” she said.

Charlie Sue’s mother, Amy Pates, will travel with her to Kentucky for the Interscholastic Equestrian Association National Finals.

“We’ll be able to go and see where the Kentucky Derby takes place and do a few other things,” she said. “We’re really looking forward to it.”

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