Discipline pushes teen equestrian to the top


15-year-old Haley Schnuck of Lamar recently won the All-American Quarter Horse Congress’ level one youth pole-bending contest in Columbus, Ohio.

LAMAR — If you can’t feel the adrenaline rushing through your veins at the opening of the race shute, riding a barrel horse isn’t for you.

It’s a necessary edge that separates good from great. And Haley Schnuck thrives on it.

The 15-year-old Lamar girl competes in both barrel-racing and pole-bending contests, and recently won the All-American Quarter Horse Congress’ level one youth pole-bending contest in Columbus, Ohio. The Congress is the largest single-breed horse show in the world and had more than 24,500 entries.

That honor is the latest in an arsenal of winning that she has amassed in her four years of competitive horseback riding.

She has also run a blazing fast 19.9 second sprint four times in pole-bending events — a feat her mother, Janie, said is “almost unheard of” for a girl her age.

“I just love the feeling you get,” Haley said. “It’s a rush. There’s a lot of adrenaline in it and it’s just a really fun time.”

Pole bending is a timed event that consists of weaving a horse through six evenly spaced poles that stand 21 feet apart. Barrel racing times competitors as they sprint around preset barrels.

Haley has been on horses since she was 3 years old and started showing them when she was 11. She comes from a pedigree with a history of equestrian success.

Janie is a world champion stake-race, pole-bending and barrel-racing rider. She has traveled across the globe through the sport and still competes today.

Haley’s grandparents, uncle and aunt are also decorated riders. Grandma Doris Lucas and Grandpa Ted Lucas have a combined 22 world and reserve championships.

Haley is the next Schnuck in the family’s long line of show-horse success. She is a freshman at Heritage Hills High School, and her goal is to one day work with horses professionally. She’s thought about being a horse chiropractor, but hasn’t decided just yet.

So far, she has competed in so many contests she can’t put a number on them. In June, Haley earned four world championships and one reserve championship at the Pinto World Championship Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She is a member of the Dubois County 4-H Wranglers Horse and Pony Club, and was the 2018 Indiana State Fair Class 9 pole-bending champion.

Monday, she and her mother received word that they qualified for the National Barrel Horse Association World Show in Perry, Georgia. Haley credits her mother with helping her do what she loves.

Janie said her daughter’s success at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress is huge because qualification isn’t required at the contest, which creates a crowded field of fiercely-competitive riders. In that respect, she said, the Congress is bigger than the world show.

“You’ve got top dogs pulling in to Ohio from California, from Canada, they’re flying back from overseas to bring horses in that have stationed here in the States to show in the world show and the congress,” Janie explained.

So for Haley to win the pole-bending event — she finished with a time of 20.119 seconds and beat out 98 competitors in her class — that’s a big, big deal.

Janie said Haley is unlike the average teenager because of her discipline to her horse training and exercising, classroom studies, as well as the necessary little things — like feeding her and her mothers’ horses and cleaning out their stalls.

“She’d rather have a clean barn than a clean room, I can promise you that,” Janie said with a laugh.

Haley is always improving, Janie said. She stresses to her daughter that the color of the ribbon isn’t the most important part. It’s how much effort she puts into her craft.

The two compete on seasoned horses — Haley’s mare, Ruby, is 15 years old, and her mom’s horse, Frosty, is 18. Janie explained that most riders have horses between the ages of 3 and 5. Because of the horses’ experience, they don’t need to practice the pattern every day, but they do require constant conditioning to stay in shape.

The family lives on a rolling-hill farm, and Janie and Haley ride Ruby and Frosty around the land about three times a week to keep them sharp. In the winter, the Schnucks take them to indoor arenas owned by friends for training. Right now, they’re giving them a break.

Her mom is already so proud of Haley. Her future in the sport is bright.

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