When it comes to competing in equestrian, starting off early in life is key. Three Park Cities residents — Katharyn Black, Maro Reppas, and Margaret Stocker — are already competitive riders before their 16th birthdays.
The triumvirate trains under Katherine Breunig, who runs Catch Ride at Park Lane Equestrian. Breunig started riding when she was 4 years old and teaching when she was 22. She also teaches two more Park Cities girls at Catch Ride — Kate Stark and Lilly Trungale — who are new to riding.
“If they’re serious about it, the sooner we can start, the better,” said Breunig, who also runs Park Lane Academy, a beginners riding school. “The kids that start at 5 years old are going to horse shows by the time they’re 8.”
Stocker, 15, also started riding when she was 4. She just got a new horse named Second Hand Rose, and she is aspiring to compete in the North American Young Rider Championships and the Junior Olympics next year.
“I really like it because you get to have a relationship with an animal that can’t speak your language,” Stocker said. “It’s a lot of fun being able to be on horses while they’re jumping over fences; you’re practically dancing with them. The competition is a lot of fun.”
Stocker, who originally became interested in riding because her mother also rode growing up, said starting so young has allowed her to feel natural on a horse.
“I guess it took a little while [to get the hang of it], but I don’t really remember because I was so young,” Stocker said. “I’ve been riding forever now, so it’s like second nature to me.”
Stocker plans to show her new horse soon when she competes in “eventing,” which Breunig said is like a triathlon of riding competition, with dressage, cross country, and show jumping phases. It is also an Olympic discipline. For younger riders, there are also hunters and jumpers. Hunters is when riders learn how to jump and ride with poise and work on positioning, while jumpers starts to get more into the competition aspect with speed and accuracy.
Reppas, 11, competes in all three types of shows, on a horse named Frappuccino. She got off to a relatively late start by beginning her riding career just two years ago. But she quickly discovered it was definitely her cup of tea.
“I had one lesson and loved it,” Reppas said. “Then I had two lessons a week, then three, and four, and then it turned into every day. It’s just a lot of fun. I go to about seven or eight competitions a year. I like eventing more than anything.”
Black, 8, also has a new horse named Moves Like Jagger, after the Maroon 5 song. She started riding three years ago and also competes in all three levels.
“When I was 5, I went to a barn, and they said I couldn’t start riding until I could ride my bike without training wheels,” Black said. “We didn’t go back to that barn. We came to Park Lane and saw a bunch of other people riding horses, so we wanted to try it.
“After we tried it for a while, we started leasing a horse. After we leased a horse, we got a horse. Then we had to sell the horse because it wasn’t very good. And then we got Jagger.”
All three riders say they plan to continue competing for the foreseeable future. And that suits Breunig just fine.
“The girls that are already going to the horse shows are really good riders,” she said. “It’s really cool and exciting.”