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Young Langley equestrian enjoys the ride

Shaina Nielson, Island County’s top 4-H rider, shows off her horses Mercedes and Magic, as well as her awards.  - Photo courtesy of Kathy Nielson
Shaina Nielson, Island County’s top 4-H rider, shows off her horses Mercedes and Magic, as well as her awards.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Kathy Nielson

Shaina Nielson has been on a lot of horseback rides.

The 16-year-old from Langley rode well at the Whidbey Island Fair and qualified for the fourth time to compete at the state 4-H riding competition in September. Nielson, a junior at South Whidbey High School, did well enough at the Island County 4-H riding events that she won a belt buckle for best showmanship, in which the rider is judged for leading and handling the horse. She also had the overall performance high point.

“I like to call it ‘you sit there, ride around and look as pretty as you can,’” Nielson said.

For whatever reason, though, her horse’s and her performance at the state competition was a little off. Nielson missed out on placing at the state fair with her horse Bentley, which she leased from former Island County 4-H’er Alissa Coupe.

“I think it was a combination of us being nervous,” Nielson said. “It definitely wasn’t the best show I’ve ever had.”

Last year, Nielson and Bentley put on quite a show at the Island County Fair in Langley. Bentley was a late replacement after her longtime horse died, and the two have been performing together since July 2011.

“It was so much fun,” she said.

Nielson took part in the senior performance weekend of the Puyallup Fair. She was judged on an assortment of riding and equestrian events, including riding and horse judging, which was her best competition with a 10th place finish. As a judge, Nielson scored the kids’ events based on things like the horse’s movement, the rider’s posture, among other marks.

“Without any notes, that’s going off what’s in your head,” Nielson said.

“I’ve always wanted to judge horses. Horse judging is just one of those things I would really love to do.”

More than riding, Nielson loves caring for the big beasts like Bentley. Nielson is taking veterinary technician courses at Sno-Isle Technical Center and wants to be a veterinary’s assistant. As for riding, she may compete in jumping or senior performance next year, but it will be a different steed than her 18-year-old white gelding.

“It’s sad to see him go to someone else, but I know he’s going to do well with who he’s with now,” Nielson said.

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