By MIKE CHAIKEN
A Bristol teen is making some noise in the equestrian competition circuit. A really big noise… i.e. a national crown.
Megan Grabowski, 14, an honor student at St. Joseph School (and upcoming St. Paul High School freshman in the fall) competed in the Interscholastic Equestrian Association nationals. She walked away with a championship trophy in jumping and runner-up honors on the flat.
The hationals were held April 18 to 21 at the Toyota Coliseum in Syracuse, N.Y.
The competition included riders at both middle school and high school level, who competed in both individual and or teams. To get to that competition, Megan, who trains at TerryAllen Farm in Terryville with coach/trainer Samantha Borkoski, had to compete in up to five local shows and amass a certain number of points based on performance placing.
The top point earners, like Megan, moved to regional (in Megan’s case Connecticut) competition. From there, the top two riders competed at zones (which included all of New England in Megan’s case). The top riders from that competition go to nationals to represent their zone. Finally, the top 20 riders in the country compete for the national title.
Megan won grand champion, for individual middle school, in the two-foot-over fences and is reserve champ (second place) on the flat (which means walk, trot, and cantor).
Megan started riding at age 5. But, she said, “I don’t clearly remember what I felt like when I first got on a horse but my parents always say I loved it and I didn’t want to get off.”
After first getting on her horse– and when she was ready, Megan said, “My first competition was at a small schooling show held at TerryAllen Farms and I rode one of their many schooling horses. I never really wanted to start seriously competing but I was convinced by my trainer’s daughter. And after my first show, I just couldn’t stop. My favorite part of showing was performing to the best of my ability and winning was just an added bonus.”
Since then, Megan said, “I have been given countless opportunities and have gotten to ride many different horses along the way. I first started seriously showing on ponies and early last year moved up to horses. I have been to shows across Connecticut, including (Connecticut Hunter & Jumper Association) and (The Connecticut Horse Shows Association) finals, and have competed in (Horse Shows in the Sun) Saugerties in New York and was champion in one division and received numerous other ribbons. My hope this year is to qualify for Marshall and Sterling Finals that will also be held at HITS during champion’s weekend. “
When she won her national crown at the IEA, Megan said, “(It) felt like all the falls I’ve taken and all the hard work I’ve put into my riding has finally paid off. After zones, I knew I needed to practice if I wanted to win, so that’s what I did. I took a few lessons every week and gave my horse one day off. My trainer had me doing lots of no stirrup work to strengthen my legs and we worked over poles to work on consistently finding my distances.”
Due to the nationals, Megan said, “I haven’t competed in many events this year because my IEA training lasted until the end of nationals so my regular show season has just started to begin. In July, I will be heading to HITS Saugerties for three weeks and competing with my horse, Knight Court… I train usually five to six days a week and give my horse one to two days off.”
As for her equestrian ambitions, Megan said, “I don’t really have a dream but I will eventually (hopefully the 2014 regular show season) move up to the (to another level) and see where I go from there.”
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver. com.