BRANDON, Manitoba — There’s no denying that Hadley Booth and Susie Ness have put the time and effort into equestrian since both took up the sport at early ages.
They were rewarded for that hard work with the most prestigious titles of their riding careers as both recently brought home national titles at the Canadian National Horse Show.
Booth, a 14-year-old from Kingsley, and Ness, a 16-year-old from Traverse City, won their crowns at an event that featured over 800 horses and riders from across the United States and Canada.
“I was really surprised. I did not expect that at all,” said Ness, who has been competing in the sport since age 7. “I was really proud of my horse because he’s kind of an underdog and he doesn’t really do that class very much, so we had to teach him how to do all that. I was really more proud of him than anything.”
Riding 10-year-old Docs Echo, Ness won her national championship in Western Horsemanship — her favorite class in which to compete — as well as a reserve championship in her Western Pleasure class and received top 10 honors in the Hunt Seat Equitation championship for riders in ages 14-18. Western Horsemanship is an equitation class that is judged on the rider’s form and technique.
Booth won her title in the Hunt Seat Equitation championship for riders 13 and under on her horse, 11-year-old Belle Song, who Booth had been riding for the past two years. She also finished with top 10 honors in two Hunter Pleasure classes. Hunt Seat Equitation judges evaluate riders’ hands, legs and seat, and look for riders who display a classic workmanlike appearance while executing pattern work.
“It was pretty tough. (The competition) had really nice horses that were higher end and more expensive than the horses we brought,” said Booth, who started riding when she was 4 years old. “I was very nervous. I just knew that my horse and I could do it and we just went in and did our pattern like we were supposed to and it worked.”
Both riders earned their chance to compete at the national show by winning regional competitions. Ness, in fact, had won regionals in the same class for the past three years.
“It was really tough (at the Canadian show) because you had to qualify to get there so everyone there was really good and had a chance at winning,” said Ness.
Booth was well-prepared for the national event as she has been riding quite extensively this summer.
“We showed at the local fairgrounds, the Northwestern Michigan Fairgrounds, and we have been showing at ‘A’ shows locally in Michigan,” she said. “I was riding every single day and we brought my horse down to the trainer a couple weeks before, so (I was riding) a lot.”
Ness also had put in a great deal of time leading up to the biggest performance of her career.
“I think I’ve been to 12 horse shows this year,” she said. “I knew how my horses were going to react in the show ring so I could just predict how they were going to do the maneuvers better and then I also knew how to control my nerves better. If you get nervous the horse feeds off it.”
Ness, who will be a junior at Traverse City Central, and Booth, who is starting her freshman year at Kingsley, are done competing for the year with an eye already on next year.
“I really want to go back to a national event,” said Ness.