BAMS student becoming an accomplished horseback rider
When Delaney Badger is horseback riding, nothing else matters. It’s her happy place, the Bellefonte Area Middle School eighth-grade student said. And it’s even more fun when she’s riding an American Paint Horse named Dewey.
Delaney said she got into the sport, also known as western equestrian, at age 9 when she simply told her parents she was interested in it.
“All I wanted to do was horseback riding, so I told my parents that’s what I wanted for my birthday,” she said. “They got me lessons, and I’ve been riding ever since.”
Now, 13, Delaney is establishing herself as an accomplished rider, traveling around the country at competitions called “shows.” The purpose of calling it a “show,” Delaney said, is because the intent is for the rider to show the judges how he or she can successfully control a horse around an arena, with a horse the rider may not know and has no more than five minutes to get acquainted with. One of her latest shows came in June in Fort Worth, Texas for the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Western National Finals where she placed third in the Future Beginner Horsemanship walk-jog-lope class.
“We go all over – Pennsylvania and Ohio – we went to Texas for nationals in 2021 and nationals will be in Harrisburg in 2022,” she said. “I was also at a show in Ohio (in October) and another (this) month.”
However, Delaney is recovering from a broken collarbone from an incident in soccer. Nonetheless, it’s not stopping her from continuing to learn about the sport, even if riding is off limits for the time being.
“You can always watch and take it in,” she said.
Delaney is a member of the Grier School’s IEA Western Equestrian team that allows her to be a part of the sport, but without attending the college-preparatory boarding school in Warriors Mark Township, Huntingdon County. She’s been a part of the program for three years, and trains at Eagle Valley Equestrian Center in Wingate, working with coach Chris McElyea, who also coaches the western equestrian team at Penn State.
There, Delaney is able to ride a variety of horses during practice – including her favorite, Dewey. While Delaney doesn’t have the chance to compete on the horses from Eagle Valley Equestrian Center, she uses her skills working with the horses there to better familiarize herself with a new one at each show. IEA uses a draw system to determine the horse the rider will compete on. More times than not, that horse is not known to the rider.
“That’s the whole point – to show what you can do with a horse you don’t know,” she said.
Working toward a goal to achieve the highest level of riding is something Delaney added that she hopes to eventually accomplish. She’s currently in the future novice horsemanship class, which is rail work – walk, jog, lope and possibly a pattern. She also added the future novice ranch riding class for the 2021-22 shows, which is a new class added by IEA this season.
And for those new to the sport, Delaney suggests getting lessons and learning by watching others. That, she said, helps building “confidence” when riding. When not riding, Delaney is involved in many school activities including Ski Club and Snow Sports, soccer, student council, and track and field.
*By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD. Information also provided by Resa Badger.