- A Northland Pines High School junior spends her mornings and afternoons on a saddle.
National pony finalist Maya Lovdal has formed a trusting bond with her pony and competes in many shows each year.
Lovdal has been riding horses since she was three. For her, riding a horse is just like any other day.
"I've been doing it for so long that I don't feel anything. So, sometimes I just have more excitement than other days," said Lovdal.
Her trainer is never nervous when Lovdal steps into the ring.
"I know she knows her job. We've prepared. We've done our homework. Her pony is honest and they know what they're supposed to do," said owner and trainer at Pine Ridge Equestrian Center Jayme Nelson.
Lovdal's mom is a different story.
"My mom is shaking every time she watches me. There is always a smile on her face," said Lovdal.
In pony jumping, Lovdal must jump her pony over a fence while going fast. She always has to think ahead.
"When you watch her come out and ride her ponies, she very much thinks while she is working them. And, I think that is one of the things that really helps her be a good competitor. She doesn't let things rattle her," said Nelson.
Part of Lovdal's success is her bond with her pony. She has been riding Roy for five years.
"Over the years we've had this bond where he is able to trust me more and more so once the fences do get bigger, if I add my leg he will go," said Maya.
Roy wasn't always meant to be a jumper. But, he had a knack for it. To get Roy to jump the fence, she must be confident.
"I have to be confident or my pony is not going to be confident. So, I just go in with the mindset of being confident and happy and getting out of the ring," said Lovdal.
In the 13 years she has ridden, Lovdal's proudest moment was finishing 5th in August's Pony Finals in Kentucky. But next year, she wants to win.
"We've been backing up and fixing some of the problems we had in Kentucky," said Lovdal.
"She'll come out and ride in an arena all by herself and not talk to anyone and just stay focused," said Nelson.
With Lovdal, it has always been about her determination.
"I ride more than one a day so I can be stronger and be where I want to be - strong enough to tell my pony to go and he can get over those large fences," said Lovdal.
"It's taken a lot of work. She's taken her fair share of falls. It's determination. Maybe you don't feel like riding that day but you do," said Nelson.
In the winter Lovdal does one competition a month and in the summer she competes twice a month.
|Story By: Jeanine Ilacqua