Wearing jeans, a cowgirl shirt, and a cowboy hat, freshman Emily McHugh rode into the arena at the Minnesota State Fair excited to compete in the Minnesota State Championship Horse-Show.
McHugh entered her first competition at the age of 9 and has been competing ever since. This year, she qualified for the state competition held on September 21 by placing in the top two at a qualifying horse-show. “Last year my horse was injured, so I couldn’t compete,” said McHugh.
At the state competition, McHugh competed in two events, poles and keyhole, riding her half Arab, half paint horse, Santana. Both events involve weaving through and around poles as fast as possible. “I usually ride Western, or Gaming, which is like barrels and poles and patterns that you go through,” said McHugh.
McHugh rode once for each event and was given a timed score. In her category, there were 87 riders, and she placed around 15th. “They only place one through ten, so it is hard to know for sure what place I came in,” said McHugh. Her friend’s mom did the math and calculated where McHugh fell in the standings, determining that she came in around 15th. McHugh competed with other kids from all over Minnesota and half of Wisconsin.
McHugh has been riding horses since she was 4 or 5 and has become quite talented and extremely passionate about the sport. McHugh has had her own horse since the age of 10, and now she has three. “We board right by my house, about eight minutes away,” said McHugh. With her horses so close to home, McHugh is able to perfect her riding by training with friends regularly.
“I try to get out six days a week in the summer, but now I probably ride about four times a week,” said McHugh, “running is my favorite part, because I like how it feels; I like the quiet.” Along with the State Championships, McHugh also enters in other horse-shows around the state. “My favorite is Le Sueur because there’s a river nearby and you can swim after you ride,” said McHugh. Horseback riding is a hobby turned competitive sport for McHugh, but her favorite part will always be just riding with friends.