by Beth Balmanno
Pieper Christiaansen learned about patience at a young age and from what some might consider an unlikely source: her horse.
The Zimmerman High School freshman’s patience paid off this last year when she and her horse, Farrah, earned Reserve Grand Champion in the Minnesota State Finals Saddleseat Riding Equitation competition.
The competition, held in Winona, brought several barns from across Minnesota as well as some out-of-state competitors. There are no elimination rounds, Christiaansen said. “You get one chance and you are done.”
For saddleseat riding, brainpower is just as important as physical ability.
“You have to be very proper, steady and balanced,” Christiaansen explained. “You use muscles and your brain, for the horse and yourself. It’s as equally physically demanding as other school sports I participate in.”
Just as important, Christiaansen said, is being in tune with your horse.
“You need to listen to the horse, as it is a constant interaction,” she said. “You need to take the horse’s needs into consideration all the time, in practice and competition, and in general horsemanship.”
This particular skill required patience, Christiaansen learned.
“Not everything is going to be perfect the first time,” she said. “You have to be very patient with you and your horse to move forward.”
She spent countless hours working with Farrah under the direction of Kris Brutoco at Manahan Stables before taking her horse to the competition. Her lessons in learning patience began almost immediately.
“If I’m not patient, she [Farrah] gets mad and the lesson doesn’t go well,” Christiaansen admitted.
Being attuned to her horse and giving her the time she needed to learn at her own pace soon paid off. Christiaansen also realized that Farrah picked up on her own anxiety and stress, so relaxing and having fun became just as important during their riding lessons.
“When I lightened up, it just went better,” she said.
During their lessons, Christiaansen also recognized that she needed to acknowledge and appreciate Farrah’s personality. Just like people, horses have unique traits that their riders need to accept and work with.
“She has lots of personality,” Christiaansen said. “She is fun to ride and never boring with all her little quirks.”
With a successful 2019 riding competition season behind them, Christiaansen is grateful for the life lessons her horse has taught her. When asked what she was most grateful for this holiday season, her answer was simple: “Having Farrah in my life.”