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Making Her Way To The Top

By Melissa R. Stevens

Seventeen-year-old Megan McClure of Taylorsville, N.C., has been riding Saddlebreds since she was 12-years-old. She began riding Hunters at the age of five, but switched to Saddlebreds because of the atmosphere she experienced at the shows and the feeling she got while riding. “I tried riding both at the same time for a while, but the atmosphere at the Saddlebred shows was much more exciting and the feeling I got from riding the Saddlebreds was more intense. It just felt more natural to me,” she said.

Since she began riding Saddlebreds five years ago, McClure has garnered wins at Tar Heel Classic, Asheville Lions Club Charity Horse Show, Blowing Rock, Blue Ridge Classic, North Carolina State Fair, UPHA Chapter 12 (Dallas Summer Classic), ASAC, JD Massey and other shows, and has even tried out for the 2002 World Cup team.

McClure, who now spends most of her time competing in the Five-Gaited Junior Exhibitor division, credits her mom, Karen McClure, with influencing her interest in horses and says that unlike a lot of other young people she wasn’t pushed into riding, but does it because she enjoys it. “My mom rode Saddlebreds when she was younger, and I used to look at pictures and stuff of her riding,” McClure said.

Her former trainer, Dora Huie of Wind Crest Stables in Taylorsville, N.C., encouraged McClure to begin competing. “She asked if I wanted to show, so I decided to give it a try and absolutely fell in love with it,” she said.

So with the encouragement and support of her trainer and her family, McClure entered the show ring for the first time at the 1998 Tar Heel Classic. She showed Bold Irish Spirit for owner Sandy Mangum in the Three-Gaited Pleasure Horse Novice Rider class and proudly rode out with second place. “I was very nervous, but it was so fun I smiled the entire time. I don’t think I was even thinking about what I was supposed to be doing,” McClure remembers.

She went on to win her first blue ribbon again with Bold Irish Spirit at the 1999 UPHA Chapter 12 Horse Show. “I was really surprised. I also remember being confused about the victory pass. I couldn’t understand why I had to trot on the wrong diagonal,” she laughed.

McClure’s winning streak continues, but she says her two most memorable experiences are trying out for the 2002 World Cup team because she got to ride equitation and winning the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited qualifying class at Asheville. “When I won the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited qualifier I was so surprised. It was a large class and I expected to place fourth. When they called out the number, I was thinking that’s close to my number, wait that is my number. I was so happy I cried,” McClure said.

McClure now rides Breaking News in the Junior Exhibitor Five-Gaited division and trains with Peter and Kim Cowart of West Wind Stables in Statesville, N.C. She received Breaking News as a surprise Christmas present last year. “I really wanted him, but I didn’t expect to get him. We rode out to the barn for what I thought was a practice ride, but Kim rode him out with a big red bow around his neck,” McClure said.

McClure’s goal for the 2003 show season is “to live up to Breaking News’ reputation and to have good consistent rides with him no matter what ribbon we receive.”

McClure says the thing she most values about her show ring career is the incredible people she’s met and what they have taught her, specifically hard work and sportsmanship. She said, “It’s one thing to win and be nice about it, but its another thing to win a lower ribbon and still have the same attitude.”

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