Where the Girls Are: Horse Show Competitors on the Ranch

Above: World Equestrian Center in Ocala, FL, with Taylor Stone, Meghan Moriarty, Christine Ewell, Ginger Barnes, Tess Wolff, Julie Wolff, Ben Wolff  

Shane Reynolds, Outdoor Recreation Director and Outfitter

The Equestrian Center at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch is always a busy place. Since Cordillera Ranch’s earliest beginnings, horses have been an important part of life on the Ranch. 

Today, you’ll find horses grazing on dozens of lots and there are more than 40 horses we care for at the Equestrian Center. A ride across the Ranch will take you from the west end down to Spring Creek or you can ride all the way to Swede Creek Park at the Guadalupe River. With a setting this beautiful, it’s no wonder so many owners are drawn to riding for the first time when they join the Cordillera Ranch community.

Lessons are also an important part of the Equestrian Center’s programming. At any time, you will find members receiving private and group lessons, and special camps to introduce kids to the sport or further their skills from the Equestrian professional staff. And a few of these members, both kids and adults, have taken horsemanship to the next level by training to compete in shows.

According to the American Horse Council, more than 480,000 people in the United States are involved in competing across every discipline. But the Equestrian staff understands the benefits of competing in shows far exceed bringing home the blue ribbon. 

For kids and adults, horse shows push riders out of their comfort zones. Competitions take riders to unfamiliar places, they put riders in the public eye — in front of their peers and provide critique and feedback from many different perspectives. Participating in a new arena lets a horse and rider break out of their regular routine and often helps to recognize and solve problems that have lingered from training in the same environment every day. While some people welcome being in the spotlight, for others, it can be paralyzing. Competitions force riders to garner the courage to focus on everything they have learned and perform to the best of their ability, while accepting feedback from a judge. This builds confidence as well as learning to handle upsets with grace. And one of the most important benefits of competitions is the opportunity to watch other riders. Watching other riders with different skill levels and techniques provides a deeper understanding of horsemanship and also creates a connection between horse enthusiasts who share the same interests.   

At the Equestrian Center, trainer Meghan Moriarty has created an atmosphere that has encouraged kids and adults to expand beyond recreational riding. “The young students I have going to horse shows are Charlotte Hill, Tess Wolff, Sydney Zabaldo and Sophia Turturro, while my adult students are Ginger Barnes and Christine Ewell,” she said.

Meghan said that the level of showing each rider intends to do depends on their commitment. Her students come at least three times a week to get in as much saddle time as possible. This will increase to daily practice leading up to a horse show. For students who prefer to show in local competitions, once a week lessons with a few more the week of an event typically suffices. Traveling to a more breed-specialized show, whether within the state or out, requires greater dedication and commitment.

While some riders own their horses, the Equestrian Center provides lesson horses for beginners. “When students start to get serious about showing, we start to look at buying a horse or leasing one. As students become dedicated to showing and require more time with a particular lesson horse, it is best to lease that horse to ensure the horse’s availability to them. As the child or adult gets more specialized, we start to look for their own horse. We have many amazing lesson horses but they sometimes cannot take everyone where they want to go. They are a great stepping stone,” explained Meghan.

Charlotte Hill has been training with Meghan for two years now — the longest of her students. She competes in jumping, English and Western and ranch events. When there is a quarter horse available, she will attend those breed shows as well. Charlotte is 12 years old. She competes on 18-year-old “Butterbean,” aka “Butter My Biscuit” and can be seen training at the Equestrian Center three times a week. She just recently competed in a Dripping Springs jumping show and will be heading to Tulsa for the pinto championship. Charlotte’s other interest is doing people’s hair!

Tess and Sydney started training a year ago, at about the same time. “They came from Washington and Oregon, respectively, and have dabbled in the same events as Charlotte, mostly doing walk/trot events their first year out to gain confidence in the show arena before stepping up a level,” said Meghan. 

Tess Wolff is 12 years old. She has been riding for seven years, competing for five. Tess competes on “In Stores Only,” aka “Story,” who is 18 years old, and “Platinum to the Tee,” aka “Tee,” who is 4. She shows both horses in English and Western competitions and her favorite competitions are in horsemanship because she and the horse have to work together to learn and to perform the patterns. Tess trains at the Equestrian Center about four times each week and says her first three loves are horses, horses, horses! Tess takes private and group lessons. She’s found great friends in the group lessons and they help each other in the competitions. 

Sydney “Syd” Zabaldo is 12 years old. She competes on “Emma” who is 6 years old.  She began competing in Oregon two years before moving to Texas, and she’s been competing here since December. Syd likes to compete in English and Western riding, and jumping is her favorite because it’s energetic and challenging. Syd trains three times per week and absolutely loves Emma! She says Emma makes her laugh because she has a unique personality and they have developed a close connection. She also enjoys the friendships she’s made training and competing, saying they help each other. She loves to compete and her goal is to do her best, but even if she doesn’t win, she says it’s still fun!

Sophia Turturro, 8 years old, has been with Meghan for about a year. She competes in leadline events and will do walk/trot in the new year. Sophia has attended one open show at the Rose Palace so far and will likely show in the fall. She likes Western the best and has started some English.

For Meghan’s adult students, Ginger has been training for two years and thought she would only ever trail ride and have one horse. Meghan said, “I offered her one of my older seasoned show horses to take to a horse show to see if she would be interested. After that she was hooked with the different challenges it presents and how things that we work on at home make sense and are applied.”

Christine has been training with Meghan for just over a year. Once she retired, she decided to come back to riding as something fun to do. Christine has two daughters that competed in the hunters and show jumping for many years growing up and she understands the horse show community but had never tried it herself. At her first show, she received a reserve champion award in her class. She is currently learning both English and Western events.

I encourage everyone who has an unfulfilled interest in horsemanship to reach out to the Equestrian Center. On the premise of preparing students to learn how to be successful, working with horses can give kids the confidence and skills they need to work towards goals in other areas of their lives. Give Meghan a call to get your kids (or yourself) involved at the Equestrian Center and they will learn a lot about themselves by getting involved with horses!

Meghan Moriarty is the Head Trainer and Riding Instructor at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. She can be reached at mmoriarty@cordilleraranch.com and 315.771.3001.

Shane Reynolds is the Outdoor Recreation Director and Outfitter at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. He can be reached at outfitter@cordilleraranch.com and 210.616.6051, or at the Cordillera Ranch Outfitter Center at 830.336.4823.

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