Bertie teen is an Equestrian hit

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 19, 2005

LEWISTON-WOODVILLE – At 14 years of age, most would not consider Austin Trent as a &uot;veteran&uot; at anything.

They better think again.

Austin, the daughter of John and Beverly Trent of Lewiston-Woodville, is not only a veteran when it comes to competing in horse shows throughout the United States, she’s also pretty good at it as well.

Nearly 10 years after her maiden ride aboard a pony, Austin is stepping up to the big leagues – horses, or in her case, the large junior hunter division.

The move up the ladder of success hasn’t come without a few surprises, most notably due to the fact that the ponies she has ridden stand under 14.2 hands high while her new &uot;ride&uot; – Land Baron, a German-bred animal – measures at 16.1 hands.

&uot;It was a little scary at first because Land Baron has such a longer stride than I was accustomed to with a pony,&uot; she said. &uot;It all came down to me getting use to the new timing. Land Baron was covering more ground than I was use to. Now, after a few shows, I’m getting more comfortable with him.&uot;

Comfortable may be an understatement.

Picking up right where she left off in the pony class, Austin rode Land Baron to the AA Grand Champion title and the overall Grand Champion at the Duke Children’s Benefit Horse Show in November of last year.

Later that same month, she and Land Baron teamed to win the same two titles at the UNC Benefit Horse Show.

Despite the fact that she just made the transition from ponies to horses, Austin placed eighth overall in the 2004 North Carolina Hunters Jumpers Association’s (NCHJA) points standings. That Association voted Austin as the &uot;Best Child Rider&uot; in the state during the 2004 season.

Those honors came on the heels of an effort on her pony Court Jester that saw the local young lady capture second place in the United States Equestrian Federation’s Zone 3 standings in 2004. Zone 3 encompasses North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia.

The Federation had her ranked 16th overall nationally.

During the 2004 season aboard Court Jester, the NCHJA voted Austin as the &uot;Best Child Rider&uot; in the state.

But while the honors are nice, Austin said the best tribute paid to her rising skills is when she is asked to climb aboard horses owned by others.

She has had the pleasure of competing and earning several Grand Championships aboard &uot;Holland Hill&uot; owned by Sandra Butterworth. She has ridden horses belonging to her new trainers – Pat Dodson and Keith Hastings from Winston-Salem. Another horse owner, Evan Colluccio from Florida, had Austin ride &uot;Always Blue.&uot;

&uot;Being asked to ride other horses is the best compliment a rider can receive,&uot; she said. &uot;That means someone has been keeping a close eye on me while I’ve been competing. They must like my skills because they are trusting me to ride their horses.&uot;

The 2005 season is now officially underway. Austin and her family have begun traveling to shows, the latest venture being a Feb. 23 through March 14 trip to West Palm Beach, Fla.

Even though she’s on the road, Austin is able to maintain her status as a student at Ridgecroft School. Apparently, she is just as good at her high school studies as she is aboard a horse as Austin, a freshman, is on the Honor Roll at Ridgecroft.

&uot;Ridgecroft has been great to work with,&uot; she noted. &uot;They will fax my schoolwork to me while I’m on the road so I don’t miss anything. Plus, because there are so many young riders at these events, the organizers of these horse shows arrange for us to have tutors.&uot;

Beverly Trent sees the travel as a great way for the family to spend quality time together.

&uot;We want Austin to do this for fun,&uot; said the proud mother, &uot;but we do enjoy the time we all spend together. Every trip is like a mini vacation.&uot;

While the present is indeed fun, it’s the future that thrills Austin. She has plans to attend the School of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn (Ala.) University. Austin has plans to get into equine medicine or small animal veterinary medicine.

While at Auburn, Austin is hoping that the university’s effort to convince the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) to sanction Equestrian as a varsity sport will be realized.

She wants to continue to compete in a sport she loves so dearly and has since age five and one-half.