Still riding highPublished 6:38pm Friday, August 12, 2011
Just eight years ago, Jennifer Richner was beating competitors twice her age at the Cass County Fair.
Then a Ballard Elementary School student, Richner had won two grand champion titles on her horse, Wind Walker, during her first time competing in the fair.
Eight years later, Richner is still racking up ribbons and trophies.
Now 16, Richner, who has since moved to Kansas with her mother, has returned each year to her grandparents’ home on Diamond D Ranch, just outside of Niles, to compete in the Cass County Fair.
“It’s just home,” she said of the ranch. “Home is where the heart is. This is home to me and horses are my life.”
Richner returned this year riding Braveheart, the son of Wind Walker, the Egyptian Arabian/quarterhorse mare she rode when she was 8.
“I can’t even tell you how much I’ve grown as a rider, it’s ridiculous,” she said, thinking back to that first competition.
“I’ve just learned a lot about patience, definitely about patience,” Richner says. “More life experiences.”
The experience of participating in this year’s fair was especially significant to Richner.
“I can honestly say I’ve done all the work,” she said. “That’s the most rewarding part of it.”
Prior to this year, Richner said a lot of the horse training was done by her sister but with Braveheart, she remembers each time he bucked her over the saddle horn or threw a kick her way. But the two “really connected,” Richner said, and she once again won big in competition.
Days after the fair’s end, Braveheart will accompany Richner back home to Kansas. This will be the first time, she said, she’ll be able to take one of her horses home with her.
Though she hasn’t missed a year at the fair, Richner has a new balancing act ahead of her, preparing for college with hopes of entering the Naval Academy.
“4-H is my second family,” Richner said. “I’ve really learned they’re really supportive people … Cass isn’t the biggest fair in the world, but I wouldn’t go to any other fair. It’s just because of the people.”
She placed in a number of class competitions this year but also received the English High Point Traveling Trophy.
Whether or not she’ll be able to return to the ranch to compete again next year is uncertain but the impact her experiences have had on her are not lost.
And Richner still has plenty of aspirations. She said she’s always dreamed of competing in the Olympics.
“I have time. I’m not giving up on that yet,” she said, adding later, “I think I’m going to be, like, 80 and running barrels. It’s something I’ll never grow out of.”
Tags: Cass County Fair