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Tall in the Saddle

GATES – Emma Lane is quick to identify herself as a very competitive person.

“I love winning but hate losing,” she says.

Emma, daughter of Bundy and Marinda Lane of Gates, currently holds the title of 2016 World Champion in horse reining for the 13 & under category. She received the award at a banquet held in Fort Worth, Texas on February 11.

The world champion is decided by the total amount of points a rider receives from shows throughout the year. Emma earned a total of 262.5 points from 32 competitions. She won first place in all but four shows, and received second place in those remaining few.

Reining is a type of competition where riders are judged based on how well they get their horse to perform specific approved patterns, which include spins, stops, and circles. Guided by the rider, the horses can circle around at certain speeds, turn 360 degrees, and perform sudden stops suddenly depending on which pattern they are following.

“For example, if you’re supposed to spin four times, and you accidently do five, you don’t get any points,” Emma says of the strict scoring system.

The sport, essentially a Western form of dressage, originated from cattle ranchers who gathered to demonstrate skills necessary for ranch-hands to herd cattle. It is governed by the National Reining Horse Association, established in 1966.

Emma has been around horses since she was old enough to sit in the saddle. She rode in the saddle with her dad, a previous World Champion himself, when she was young, learning the patterns as he practiced for his own competitions. That’s when she fell in love with the sport.

“Once you get a taste, you can’t undo it,” she says. “It’s impossible.”

Her family has been quite supportive during her quest to win the World Champion title. A large amount of time and effort went into getting Emma to all the competitions, ranging all up and down the East Coast and as far west as Oklahoma. Her mother helps get everything ready before each show, and her father coaches her from the sidelines.

Her older brother, Tucker, also competes and previously won enough money at competition to buy himself a truck. But he cut back last year so that the family could focus on Emma’s chance to win the title.

“I want her to win it,” he told them when he made that decision.

The horse Emma won with is named Gunner Gump, a nine- year-old quarter horse that was previously used in competition by her father and brother.

Gump is well taken care of. Marinda made sure a vet came by each week after a show to make sure he wasn’t sick or injured. The horse got a clean bill of health each time.

“He actually gained weight,” she says, which is opposite of what normally happens when horses travel a lot.

Emma says Gump bucked her off the first time she climbed up in the saddle. In the beginning, their levels of experience were different. But because they’ve ridden together so much, the horse and rider are now on the same level, which has helped them win so many competitions.

Emma knows how to get Gump warmed up for shows, and what to look out for. Gump is great during shows but “flies around like a kite” when he’s in the barn.

“The good ones always have a quirk,” Emma says. She adds that sometimes she jokingly calls the horse “Grumpy” because of his tendency to pin his ears back.

The Lane family currently has nine horses, including a mare, other reining horses, one in training, and a newborn colt named Frost.

One of the things Emma has enjoyed about reining is that she’s met a lot of people and made many new friends along the way. She says it feels a little like she and the other riders have all grown up together because they meet so often at shows. At the awards banquet where she received the World Champion title, she noted that it was weird to see everyone wearing something other than jeans.

Emma is currently in ninth grade at Ridgecroft School. When she was competing for the World Championship, she often had to miss classes to make it to the shows. But her teachers have been very understanding and helpful so that she didn’t fall behind in her schoolwork. Emma says she tries to do much of her homework ahead of time, so that she has time to ride at night after her other extracurricular activities are over.

This year Emma will be competing in a different category, one in which she can win money as a prize. She won’t be going to as many shows as before, but her short-term goal is to earn enough to buy a car. She’s very excited to be able to compete against her father and brother now as well.

She hopes to keep that competitive spirit alive and bring home trophies for a long time.