Jessica Hogue discovered a training secret Saturday to help her English riding skills. The 13-year-old Craig girl and her horse, Mr. San Peppy Smoke, took advantage of the Alpine Horse & Rider competition at the Moffat County fairgrounds.
By signing up for a membership, Hogue was able to compete Saturday and has the opportunity to finish out the circuit with six more competitions this summer.
"We were going to go to Grand Junction (Saturday) and compete but we decided to just stay here and get a membership and do all the shows," Hogue said about the plans she and her father, John Hogue, had made.
"This kind of saves on money and it's more relaxed. You've really got to be ready and know what you're getting yourself into when you go the
The Alpine Horse & Rider Club is often the "training ground" for those who want to hone their English riding skills, said club member Rebecca Ludlow.
English riding competitors are judged on a strict set of standards. In the Dressage division, a French word meaning training, horses and riders attempt to achieve harmony in riding. Horses and riders are judged on the freedom and regularity of the paces, the lightness of movements and the roundness in which horses saunter in circles.
A Hunter Division, which is derived from the English hunting tradition, judges horses and riders on their clean execution of fence jumping and a horse's low reaching gait around a course.
Many of the riders at Saturday's competition were in their teenage years or younger.
Ludlow said the Alpine Horse & Rider Club, which was founded in 1983, is geared toward preparing young athletes. Training a horse and rider to ride English style can take years of training and a high level of commitment, she said.
"It's not something that you can practice once a month and expect to be really good at," Ludlow said.
Larger competitions across the state and nation can be an overwhelming experience for beginners, she added.
"This schooling shows them how to prepare and how to kind of get rid of their show nerves," Ludlow said. "It's a wonderful way for people to get started in showing their horses, and it gives people a chance to get their questions answered."
While competing, Jessica Hogue was dressed in a stiff, black riding jacket and knee-high boots, and her hair was pinned back under a black helmet.
"It's a lot different than Western," she said, taking in the scene of other riders in similar outfits. "I have to practice at least two times a week with an instructor. It's not something you can just go out and do without a lot of training."
Hogue has been riding English style since she was about 9 years old. Involved in 4-H, she raises a steer each year to help defray the costs of entering competitions and paying for costs.
Last year, Hogue won the High Point Award in her division from a different organization. The award is the result of winning the most points in one season. Hogue said she added that prize to her growing collection of ribbons.
John Hogue used to have a different view of English riding before his daughter got involved in it.
"Craig's really big on Western riding so I always thought English was kind of silly," he said. "Now I think it's really good for the kids. On the grand scale, when you think of the payoff it's probably bigger than a rodeo would be."