WESTFIELD, NJ — A 16-year-old Westfield resident who began riding seven years ago claimed the top spot at the Watchung Stable 84th Fall Troop Horse Show last month.
Emmie Reddy, atop Tucker, the horse she rode in the championship, bested a field of about 200 riders to claim the first-class or 1CT Division at the competition in Summit on Oct. 27 and 29.
“After the class concluded and we awaited results, I had no idea who had won,” Reddy said in a Nov. 10 email. “Hearing my name called as champion was very exciting and rewarding after dedicating so much time to not only the horse show but horseback riding in general.”
Reddy has been competing since she was 10 years old, and first climbed into the saddle a year earlier at Watchung Stable, home to nearly 100 county and privately owned horses, four riding rings, a show ring and an outside hunter course located in the Watchung Reservation, according to the county website.
The stable has been owned and operated by the county since 1933, and aims to teach riding, enhance equestrian skills or enhance enjoyment of the natural setting, which includes 26 miles of trails in the reservation.
“I can no longer imagine my life without horseback riding and without beginning riding at Watchung Stables,” Reddy said. “I probably would never have had the chance to undergo the amazing experiences that I have there.”
Despite Reddy’s experience, the three-day competition brought on a slow growing feeling of fatigue as she entered the ring for the final event on the last day. She noted that the final event is the culmination of much anticipation.
“The riders in this event are all the highest level at the barn,” Reddy said. “All of my competitors in this event are amazing and talented riders and I am very lucky to be able to ride and compete with such a kind and passionate group of individuals.”
The competition consists of both jumping and flat contests.
In both, only the rider is judged, Reddy told LocalSource. She additionally won several over fence competitions.
There is a hunter and pleasure division in the show that private horses can enter, Reddy said. Reddy’s horse, Rookie, was judged in these divisions.
Plenty of preparation is required by both participants and the stable staff prior to the show, Reddy told LocalSource. For weeks leading up to the show, one of two annual troop shows at the facility, Reddy said she and her fellow riders practiced consistently, and she trained daily in the final weeks.
Being a member of the senior — or most experienced — group of riders at Watchung, this provided Reddy the opportunity to ride with the troop and, as the show neared, the lessons became geared toward event preparation.
“The instructors provided us with exercises that would help tune our riding and horses up for the show,” she said.
In addition to lots of practice, riders must make sure their equipment and uniform is ready and presentable, and that private horses are groomed properly, Reddy said. In addition to readying riders and organizing the event, the Watchung Stable staff has other responsibilities, including making sure the horses’ equipment, or tack, is properly prepared.
“I am very thankful to the horse, Tucker, I rode during the championship and to my trainer, Katie Stellakis, who has played a large role in me becoming the rider I am today,” Reddy said. “I would like to thank the county of Union and Watchung Stable, all the staff included, specifically for giving me the opportunity to participate in a sport I love.”