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Horse Whispers
Whispers from the Founder

Conversation with a Trick Rider
October 01, 2012

Our efforts to showcase the special relationship girls and women have with their horses recently introduced us to a fascinating young Colorado woman who has developed a name for herself as an up-and-coming trick rider. Our conversation with her turned into an interview, which was equally fascinating….
Ally Baumgart

Q: What got you interested in trick riding?
A: I ride in an organization at one of my local fairgounds. When I was younger and on lower level teams, it was often required for us to watch the higher level teams perform in shows. I was always captivated by the trick riders and wanted to be like them. It was always my dream!! Finally three years ago, I convinced my mom (who was very against hanging off the side of a horse) to let me start trick.

Q: Were you a daredevil rider before this?
A: I wouldn't call myself a daredevil - but I was never afraid of doing crazy things on horses! Before I started trick, I did liberty, bareback jumping without a bridle (I still do this now, too). I love jumping high and I was never afraid to make my horse run faster, even without a saddle and bridle. My own horse, Jojo, (I lease my trick horse, Ace), is a VERY uptight and anxious horse who never runs out of energy! When she gets nervous or excited she loves to buck and rear and has thrown me off many times. But I always get right back up- I can't let her get away with behavior like that!! I have had her for almost four years, since I was 12, and even then, I never thought twice about buying a calmer horse.

Q: How did you first get started with horses? Tell me about your first horse.
A: Ever since I was a baby, I have always loved animals and especially horses. When I was really young, my mom used to take me to pony rides and on trail rides (and I always had to ride the electric "penny" horse at King Soopers). When I was 7, I started taking a few lessons on a friend’s horse. From her, I met other riders at her barn which led to more riding time and more lessons! Finally when I was 9, I had met the age requirement to join the organization I am currently in. I have been in the organization for over 7 years now and have finally reached the Varsity level on all my teams.

I leased my first horse, Cabbie, for almost 9 months. (I'm not sure if you know anything about leasing, but we took the horse to the barn of our choice, but we did not officially own him. However, I had full use of him and for the most part, it was just like owning a horse). Cabbie was a brown quarter horse who was extremely difficult and stubborn. At this time, (four years ago), I was not trick riding yet so he was only used for regular drill riding and liberty. We wanted to buy him after 9 months but found out he had arthritis and could never be the strong horse I needed. That is when we bought Jojo, (aka the monster!), my current horse. I've had her for just about four years.

Q: What do horses do for you that nothing else does?
A: My horse is my best friend. I know that she will never judge me and will love me no matter what. Her life depends on me. She has given me an unbelieveable friendship that no one else could or ever has, and she is my other half. I don't know who I'd be without my horse!

Horses and riding in general have given me a passion and changed my life. To me, riding isn't a sport - it's a lifestyle. My life revolves around it! I love it more than anything else in the world and I know it will continue to be a part of me for the rest of my life.

Q: Is there a fear you had to overcome to trick ride? If so, how did you overcome it?
A: I didn't have to overcome any fears; I always knew trick riding was what I was meant to do!!

Q: What does it take to be a good trick rider?
A: It takes a lot to be a good trick rider. Physically, a trick rider has to be in shape - you must have strong muscles, especially abs, to pull yourself up out of a trick while the horse is running 30mph, you must be flexible in order to "fold" into different positions for specific tricks, and although many people don't believe it, cardiovascular endurance is extremely important! Mentally, you must have ABSOLUTE trust in your horse (that horse has your life in its hands!), you must fearless (this helps a lot when you're in a hanging trick and your head is 6 inches off the ground...), and you must always be in the right mindset. A trick rider must have complete concentration and focus at all times.

Q: What kind of horses make the best trick horses?
A: The best trick horses are solid, muscular and built bigger (so they can hold 100 pounds hanging off of them!), extremely fast, always reliable, healthy, and as we often call it, bomb proof. A trick horse can not spook at or be afraid of anything. He is holding the rider's life in his hands so he must be able to have full concentration on running the trick pattern at all times.

Q: Do you have a different kind of relationship with a trick riding horse than a trail riding horse?
A: Yes!! In every way. As I've said before, the rider must have ABSOLUTE trust in the horse. Also, the horse must trust the rider. Trick riding is not a comfortable or normal way for a horse to carry a person and it is often scary for them. So, they must trust their rider that they will not be scared or hurt.

Q: What have you found is the best way to establish a connection/trust with a trick riding horse?
A: I started out trick riding with my horse, Jojo, and she's a smaller horse who never liked trick because it hurt her back. She was very unreliable - one practice she would be perfect and the next one she would be bucking, kicking, angry, and we later found out, in pain. So the unique trust I needed with her for trick riding was never established. After we found out that Jojo couldn't do trick, we started leasing Ace who absolutely loves trick. I'm not exactly sure how we established the connection and trust that we have now. All I know is that there was a connection between us the first time I rode him (within the first 5 minutes of being on him for the first time, I had tryouts for a higher level team so I had to make Ace run and give it my all! There was no transitioning into a new horse). I had confidence and trust in him and he obviously sensed that and began trusting me.

So, I guess the only way to establish a connection and trust with a horse is to trust in the horse first.

Q: Are there different ways you communicate with a trick riding horse? Give me some examples. Who has been your favorite and why?
A: I don't really think there are different ways you communicate with a trick riding horse in general. However, what I have always done (and still do) is when I'm hanging upside down or backwards or whatever position I may be in, I talk to my horse. Even in shows with loud music, announcing, and the noise from his running, I still talk to Ace. I think it reassures him that I'm okay and that he's doing the right thing.

I have only ever ridden two horses for trick, (Jojo and Ace), and Ace is definitely my favorite! He is the ideal trick horse - he's the fastest on the team, healthy, reliable, bomb proof, and trusts in me.

Q: What has been your biggest thrill so far while trick riding?
A: My biggest thrill was definitely a show that I did for the National Western Stock Show in January of this year. It was a private show for business executives, the governor, mayors, senators, and many other people like them. These people paid anywhere between $90 and $5000 for a ticket to see the show. Thilling is definitely the best word to describe this experience... I could type for an hour and still wouldn't be able to completely explain it to you! The show was in a large arena filled with fancy tables in the center. The audience sat at these fancy tables eating a fancy catered steak lunch while the show literally revolved around them. It was terrifying because we had barely enough space to run a trick pattern around the arena (we had 10 feet of space around the perimeter of the arena to do our tricks). There were stages with huge cameras and TV's set up around the arena and there was even a bar that we had to run right next to! We were within 5 feet of the tables wherever we were in the arena. It was the PERFECT combination of every thing that could possibly spook a horse! Everything worked out just great, though!

Also, I won fitst place in a large competition two years in a row! My name is now on a plaque :)

Q: What are your goals?
A: My goals for trick riding are to continue learning new tricks and improving each time I practice.

My life goals are to go to college and become something that I love - I'm not exactly sure what that is yet but being an engineer is certainly a possbility! I want to live in a beautiful house in California and of course, have horse property!

Q: What's next for you?
A: I'm taking an AP, honors, and IB class in school and I'm drowned in work! I don't have too much free time at all, considering I take care of my horses almost every day, go to school, do homework, spend time with friends, work a job (obviously at a horse store!), and run Track and Cross Country to stay in shape for trick riding. So I guess what's next for me right now is just Senior year and more riding!!

Ally Baumgart

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