Local girl reigns in riding competition
After spending a week in Albuquerque, N.M., Paige Wagner has five show ribbons, a blanket of roses, a championship jacket, two plaques and a large trophy she struggles to lift.
Wagner, 12, won the Hunter Seat Equitation Not to Jump 13-and-Under division at the 2001 Youth National Championship Horse Show July 22-28, which was sponsored by the International Arabian Horse Association.
"It's like winning the gold medal at the Olympics," Wagner's trainer, Joy Underberg, said. "I mean, she is it. The elite person."
Wagner, who will be a seventh-grader at Baldwin Junior High School this month, said she enjoyed the experience and was excited about winning the division.
"It was really fun," she said. "It's fun going to different places every year and riding."
To win the championship, Wagner competed against 44 riders in a preliminary round, an elimination round and finals on her horse TJ Omniscient. In each round, she performed an individual routine and one in which the announcer told her what pattern to ride.
"The judges watch how the rider interacts with the horse," Underberg said. "They must have an excellent rapport."
In order to move to a higher round, Wagner had to be placed first, second or third by at least two of the three judges. In the finals, she was a unanimous selection for first, which, Underberg said, doesn't happen very often.
"That's a very big deal," Underberg said. "It's rare that all three judges select someone for first."
Wagner's mom, Pam, said the family was pleased with the accomplishment.
"When Paige rides, she's all business," Pam Wagner said. "She doesn't smile much when she's riding.
"But that next day after she won, even mucking out the stall, she had that ear to ear grin.
"And every once in awhile (her father) David will be walking around and catch a glimpse of the trophy and say 'is that cool or what?'" she said.
Paige Wagner started riding at the age of six when she received a riding lesson for her birthday. She said she's been riding ever since.
"It was fun and I really like the horses," she said.
After riding a couple of different horses, Paige Wagner got TJ Omniscient two years ago. Even though the horse and rider compete together as one, things weren't always as smooth.
Underberg said the horse was a little wild when she first started training him.
"Pam once said 'My daughter will never ride that horse," she said.
"I was a little scared, a little uncertain of him" Pam Wagner said.
And there were still a few problems when Paige Wagner started to ride TJ Omniscient.
"When Paige first started riding him, he took advantage of her," Underberg said. "He has a mind of his own."
But Paige Wagner said she has worked with her horse a lot over the past two years to be able to compete as a team.
"I try and ride him every day, but some days I sleep in and then it gets too hot," she said.
She also has at least one riding lesson a week at Underberg's Lazy J training center and works on specific drills and routines throughout the week.
Paige Wagner, who has been competing in horse shows since 1995, will compete in other shows this year including the Kansas State Fair in September.
Even though Paige Wagner won the championship this year, Underberg said they were still going to be working and training hard.
"There's still the challenge of trying to do that well and even better in the classes next year," she said.