Triple Trouble: Getting Beat by a Nine-Year-Old

“I’m not sure how much more motivation I need than my nine-year-old niece beating me on my own horse — and making sure I know it. Do I want to whoop on a nine-year-old? Yes. Am I anywhere close to being able to do it? No, I don’t think so. But, it’s fun trying…”

Over the past several years I’ve been competitively riding horses almost every weekend — and sometimes even full weeks. I’ve traveled to multiple states, seen a variety of show venues, and rode a plethora of horses. I’ve been fortunate enough to have sturdy mounts, the resources to participate in a sport I’m passionate about, and great people I’ve met along the way.

However, I was losing interest. I didn’t have the drive and fire in my soul anymore. The sport of mounted shooting started to get monotonous. I felt like I had achieved almost all the goals I wanted to meet, I have a drawer full of buckles, and my horses have proven that they could be competitive weekend after weekend.

Photo by JMF Photo

As the weeks went on, I found that my favorite part of the week was when my niece, Kamille, came over to ride and help with barn chores. It was fascinating to me how her brain was like a sponge for horse-related information. I’d explain a maneuver to her and by the next week she’d show her competence in it. She had a love for riding and a fire in her soul to be the best should could be for her equine partner, Buns.

It was the dead of winter, and I thought she was ready to compete at a one day show that was closer to home. The only reason I hesitated to take her before then is that she has terrible asthma and allergies — it takes a great deal of effort to keep her lungs clear and in tip top shape for her to perform well. I digress a bit here. but ultimately I made the decision to start bringing her to competitions with me and letting her run Buns.


@comin_inhot First competiton #horsesoftiktok #equestrian ♬ Let’s go – Official Sound Studio

I have been so proud watching her progress in the competition pen from January to now. At that first competition she was trotting the patterns on Buns. She made every attempt to figure out the navigation of any of 80+ mounted shooting patterns. If she messed up, she still gave her horse a pat and came out smiling.

It only took until the end of the first shoot that she caught the sickness — that true cowgirl fever. From that point on, she’s been eating, sleeping, and thinking about horses. I started receiving daily calls before and after the school day to discuss patterns, maneuvers, how the horses were feeling, and when the next show was. This provided me with something I didn’t realize I had been missing for years — that passion that once lit my soul on fire.

Photo by Marcella Gruchalak

I love every moment of teaching Kamille how to ride and watching her find enjoyment and love in the horses that carry us to each win. It has given me a new love for the animals and the sport. To think my horses could carry me full speed in the pattern then turn around and slow right down for her to learn has been extremely heartwarming.

However, it wasn’t long before she started kicking my a$$ in the arena. I’m not sure how much more motivation I need than my nine-year-old niece beating me on my own horse — and making sure I know it. Do I want to whoop on a nine-year-old? Yes. Am I anywhere close to being able to do it? No, I don’t think so. But, it’s fun trying.


@comin_inhot CMSA NY State Championship #cowgirl #equestrian #horsesoftiktok #summer #mountedshooting #ottb ♬ Summer Of ’69 – Bryan Adams

Towards the end of summer, Buns came out of the pasture missing a shoe and lame. Kamille was absolutely devastated. It could have very well been the end of her mounted shooting season. Luckily, a mounted shooter offered up her great horse, Xena, for Kamille to use. Xena is a QUICK pony. I was a bit nervous to see how Kamille’s riding abilities would hold up on a horse that was very different from hers.

When I thought I couldn’t have anymore appreciation for the sport and horses, I was wrong. This made me even more excited to go to shoots again every weekend. Kamille jumped on that horse and rode aggressively like she didn’t even switch her mount. It’s been a delight watching her.

Xena accepting her new job as a kids’ pony by assisting in apple picking. Photo by Marcella Gruchalak.

In August, Buns carried her to the New York State Championship Wrangler Limited Champion title and the last weekend of September Xena helped her earn the titles of Pennsylvania State Wrangler Limited Champion AND Northeast Regionals Wrangler Limited Champion. The little ball of sass took more titles and buckles than I have this year.


@comin_inhot Northeast Regionals Limited Wranger Champion #cowgirl #equestrian #mountedshooting #blackequestrian #horsesoftiktok #rideitlikeyoustoleit ♬ Lovin’ Every Minute of It – Loverboy

Watching Kamille grow as a rider and develop great horsemanship skills has reminded me of that fire I once had for the sport. The desire to go anywhere and do anything as long as it was on the back of one of my good horses. It ignited the passion and relit that fire in my soul to want to be on the back of a horse. The want to continue learning and continue trying to communicate clearly with my equine partners.

Having Kamille alongside me has motivated me to teach her correctly how to become a great partner for her horse. It also reminded me that I need to continue asking the right questions to understand what my horse is trying to tell me — how to make every attempt to understand what they need from me to be successful. She has reminded me of the importance of riding for fun and how to be confident in everything I do and ask — even if it may not be right in that moment. Above all, she’s reminded me to appreciate them, even in the most undesirable of situations. Good run, bad run, no run — we give plenty of pats and scratches.

I look forward to having Kamille with me as the years continue to pass. It excites me that I’ll get to continue watching her to develop into a far better a rider than I will ever be. Kamille is destined for greatness and I’ll be motivated to support and help her every step of the way.

Photo courtesy of Marcella Gruchalak