Rider fares well

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Just making it to the 13th annual Arabian Youth Nationals was a big step for 10-year-old rider Ryan Fralick.

But she wants more.

"She loved going to the trophy room," trainer Regina Wendler said. "She saw what she could win, and I think she will keep going back to compete until she gets what she wants."

Ryan, who started riding horses at age 2 and first competed at age 4, qualified to ride at the national competition based on her results from the five "A"-rated shows she competed in this summer.

It's a goal she has been working toward for two years.

The points she earned during the show season allowed her to travel to Albuquerque, N.M., last month, where she made the most of her opportunities with her horses, Baskskolana and SS Have Merci.

Ryan qualified to ride in six events: showmanship, dressage, western equitation, Western pleasure, hunt-seat equitation and hunter pleasure.

She survived the preliminary and semifinal rounds in both events and advanced to the finals in her age group.

The classes ranged in size from dressage, which had just 16 riders, to equitation and pleasure, groups that had more than 45 riders.

Ryan didn't place in the top 10, but left with the knowledge that she is one of the top 16 riders in her age group in the country.

"We left there with way more than we expected," Wendler said. "It was a great experience for Ryan and will surely make her an even better rider down the road."

Wendler said what made Ryan's showing more impressive is that she did all the legwork herself.

It's not uncommon for riders Ryan's age to have their horses in full training -- which can mean taking three lessons a week and having horses regularly ridden by a professional trainer. Many times, trainers will ride the horses until just minutes before the competition and then hand them off to the young riders.

Riders who benefit from so much professional training help enter the arena with a decided advantage over those who get fewer lessons and train their horses themselves.

Wendler said many of the top riders will show their horses as many as 50 times a year. However, the average is between 15 and 30.

Ryan's approach is slightly more conservative.

Usually, she trains with Wendler once a week, but she increased her training to twice a week before the national competition.

Ryan's parents and Wendler also agree that Ryan take on most of the responsibility for training and schooling the horse."Ryan does it on her own," Wendler said. "Her parents and I would not have it any other way."

Ryan also must overcome Steamboat's remote location. Last year, she showed her horses just five times in "A"-rated competitions.

"I started riding horses when I was 2," Ryan said. "I just love to be around horses."

This was the first time Fralick has attended the Arabian Youth Nationals. She competed at the Morgan Nationals in Oklahoma City last year on a horse that was owned by someone else. She mainly competes in Colorado.

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