Lassiter rides high in the saddle

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 13, 2005

When Matheson Lassiter was six years old, her mother asked if she’d like to take horseback riding lessons.

Matheson enthusiastically said, &uot;Yes!&uot; as only a six-year-old can.

What followed has been a nine year journey leading to national recognition for both Matheson and her half-Arabian, gelding paint &uot;Sully.&uot;

Sue Lassiter, Matheson’s mother, laughs when she recalls those early riding lessons.

&uot;At first, our plan was to split a one hour lesson, each of us riding for thirty minutes.

It didn’t take long for my half hour to shrink to nothing, because Matheson was a natural and liked it so much, right from the beginning.&uot;

Matheson’s trainer has always been Paula Hollowell, owner of Mare’s Nest Training Center in Rich Square, who quickly recognized the youngster’s potential and

gave both Sue and Matheson the encouragement they needed to take on serious training.

The Lassiter girls started with a vision of pleasure riding together, along nearby trails, but Hollowell saw Matheson in an Arabian Horse Association competition ring, with dozens of ribbons and trophies on the wall at home.

Her vision prevailed.

Matheson’s training began, hours and hours of it, much of it with her feet planted firmly on the ground, caring for horses and stalls, learning about the animal and bonding with the animals she’d eventually ride into the ring.

In addition to Sully, Matheson owns a purebred Arabian, Khaarisma, a 19-year-old gray mare with brown freckles, who is a born jumper.

Jumping is the fun part of horse shows for Matheson and &uot;Kimi,&uot; but the big recognition has come with Sully, the dressage member of this talented threesome.

Competing at shows across the southeast for the past several years has brought the trio a modest bit of fame.

Williamston, Raleigh, Lexington, Virginia and Atlanta have all been sites where Matheson, Sully and Kimi have enjoyed success.

Of course, Sue and Paula have been there, too.

Sue to help where she can.

Paula to fine tune and motivate.

Both to help with the heavy lifting that comes with hauling horse trailers and keeping the horses.

According to Matheson, the most important thing she’s learned from her trainer is that &uot;her goal should be to have a good ride with her horse and not to ride for the judges.&uot;

This concept has helped Matheson and her horses become one when they trot into the ring, working as a team, to please each other.

The success this approach has helped bring has been recognized by the Arabian Horse Association by the awarding of prestigious designations to both Matheson and Sully.

In June, Matheson was awarded the AHA’s Dressage Rider Award for Training Level, which puts her on track for higher recognition in the coming years.

Even greater recognition has come to T’Sullivans Sacred Moon +/, Sully’s full name.

The +/ at the end of his name indicates Matheson’s partner, with her ridership, has been placed into the AHA’s Legion of Supreme Honor, among the highest classifications of show horse in the Arabian horse world.

In the coming months, but not interfering with Matheson’s sophomore year at Hertford County High School, she, Sully and Kimi will continue to train and compete, working together to achieve athletic accomplishment

In this sport, though, there are no bats, balls or baskets, just a well matched animal and rider, each working to please the other.

&uot;Horses have good hearts,&uot; Matheson said recently.

There’s no doubt Sully and Kimi would say the same about her.