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Michelle Krentz - People’s Choice 17-Year-Old Saddle Seat Equitation Rider of the Year


by Susan Pryor


What do Jennifer Aniston, Johnny Depp, Nickleback and Michelle Krentz have in common? Simply they were all chosen as recipients of the People’s Choice Award in their area of expertise. In order to receive a prestigious award such as this, one must impress not only their peers but also everyone involved in the industry. This is exactly what Michelle Krentz, the Horse World’s People’s Choice winner in the Saddle Seat equitation 17-year-old division, has been doing since 2002 when Callaway’s Sportscaster, her first Saddlebred, was purchased.


Before the purchase of Callaway’s Sportscaster, aka “Connor”, Krentz began her riding career on her mother’s Arabian western pleasure horse, Jazzarado+. Under the direction of Arabian trainer Josh Quintus, Krentz received a Top Ten award at the 1999 Arabian Youth Nationals in Western Pleasure Walk/Trot 10 and Under.


During this same time, she began taking equitation lessons from Carol and Scott Matton of Knollwood Farms through their academy program. After watching the Saddle Horses being worked she announced to her mother, “Mom, maybe I should try one of these.” And so, as they say, the rest is history.


Beginning in 2002 aboard Callaway’s Sportscaster, Krentz began to make a name for herself in the junior exhibitor three-gaited show pleasure division. But the young Krentz was not content to simply show in the pleasure classes.


As she stated, “It was always my intention to show equitation.” Due to the fact “Connor” was not ready for equitation, Priscilla Vanilla was leased to be Krentz’s equitation mount. An injury to the horse at one of the Pleasure Equitation Finals caused the search to once again be on for a suitable mount. Krentz finished out that season in pleasure equitation on two horses from Knollwood Farms. On one of these horses, Voodoo’s Black Magic, she earned the reserve championship in the Saddle & Bridle Pleasure Equitation Medallion Junior Championship.


After this win, Krentz said, “I was kind of beginning to get my confidence up in equitation,” and it was determined she was ready for a new mount. Jazz March, one of Scott Matton’s favorite horses, became available for purchase about this same time, and the decision was made to make an offer on him. With the purchase of Jazz March began Krentz’s career in the high-tailed equitation division.


Throughout her successful career with Saddlebred horses, Michelle Krentz has shown under the direction of Knollwood Farms. Mary Krentz, Michelle’s mother, explained, “When we took Michelle to Knollwood, she was a kind of shy little girl. Scott and Carol just seemed to bring her out of her shell. I’ve seen them do this with a lot of little kids.” 


Michelle Krentz went on to explain, “Someone asked me once who was my trainer, was it Scott or Carol? I said neither is more of my trainer than the other. They are a team. They don’t just teach equitation but they teach you how to ride.” The fact that Krentz can truly ride is proven in the fact she showed 18 different horses this year and of the 18, only two were hers.


“Catch riding at the shows is one of my favorite aspects of showing,” replied Krentz when asked about showing six different horses at ASAW Summerfun show this past summer. She went on to add, Being able to get on a horse you don’t know and be able to ride it is a true test of skill in horsemanship.”


“Michelle has gotten real good and people got very confident with her because she could adapt to anything she was on - the game ones, the lazy ones- and she’s got a good pair of hands so she can get a horse bridled. She’s got a good feel and a lot of experience. Plus she is very competitive. People enjoy using kids like this to catch ride,” explained Scott Matton of Krentz and her catch-riding ability.


One horse, I’m Dreaming, which Krentz became acquainted with through catch riding, grew to be one of her favorites. The pair seemed to click as they were reserve world’s champions in the junior exhibitor country pleasure division at Louisville this year.


Of all her accomplishments Krentz feels the one that truly stands out in her mind was being a member of the U.S. Three-Gaited Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup team that won the gold medal in South Africa this past December. When telling of this great accomplishment, Krentz mentions that living with her teammates and getting to know them was truly amazing. She also felt that catch riding so many horses this year helped prepare her for the competition in South Africa where she had to ride four horses she had never ridden before.


To get her ready for both the equitation finals and World Cup, Matton explained, “Michelle did a lot of riding, a lot of bareback work. She worked to get her head on straight and got very physically strong. Equitation is an athletic event and you’ve got to be strong. You have to have the legs, the balance, the feel and this is what she worked for. We put her on everything here at the barn. We had her doing pattern work on horses that had never done patterns. She got real fluid with that.”


When talking about Krentz’s riding in the equitation classes, Matton said, “Michelle, riding Louisville Lass, went this entire year without making one bobble. In every workout, she was flawless; no missed steps, no missed leads, perfect transitions, she hit her points. She was absolutely brilliant. I was just so thrilled for her.”


When reflecting on the past years her daughter spent riding with Knollwood, Mary Krentz said, “The trainers and instructors at Knollwood have helped me raise my kids.”


She attributed Krentz’s success to Scott and Carol Matton and also to Nancy Turner and Ann Wilt. She said, “They all worked so hard to help Michelle gain confidence in herself and to express herself.”


The success that Mary spoke of is most impressive. Besides being a member of the U.S. Three-Gaited Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup team, Krentz has the extraordinary record of qualifying and placing the NHS Good Hands, USEF Medal and the UPHA Challenge Cup each time she has participated in them during the last two years, which is a feat in itself. 


To add to her long list of equitation accomplishments, Krentz has also had a successful season with her junior exhibitor three-gaited horse, Day’s Grecian Gray, earning the People’s Choice Reserve 14-17 Three-Gaited Horse of the Year.


Not only is Krentz an accomplished equestrian but she is a varsity athlete for her high school as well. This year she was the captain of the volleyball team and is currently the captain of the girls’ basketball team. How she fits all this in is done simply according to her. She has basketball on Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 3:30 until 5 p.m. She has her horseback riding lessons on Wednesday and Thursday as well as on weekends. During these lessons she rides her show horses only once a week. The remainder of the time was spent riding one of the 25 school horses.


With the conclusion of her years as a junior exhibitor, Michelle Krentz looks to a future in college. She has applied for acceptance to Marquette University and waits to hear a response.


Scott Matton said of Krentz’s choice of college was due to the fact, “it is not far from the farm.” He went on to add, “She is a ‘lifer’. She’s going to be in this for a long time. She is ready for the adult classes; performance and equitation. She put in a lot of time and was very successful in the junior exhibitor division but now it is time for a new challenge.” 


In the mean time Jazz March has found his way back to the Krentz household and is comfortably retired in a pasture. As her mother put it, “Michelle understands that she is a guardian of these animals and he has a home here.”


When asked what she thinks the future holds for horses in her life, Krentz explained, “Horses are my passion. My family is a very close one and horses have made us even closer. My sister, Jessica, is an accomplished rider and has an impressive show record with her Half Arabian/National Show Horse. A really exciting thing happened this year when an Arabian trainer asked if I would show a National Show Horse in an equitation class at the National Show Horse Finals. I did and had an excellent show, placing third. It’s kind of like I’ve gone full circle. Now, my mom says academics are number one. I understand that during college that should be my priority but horses will be a close second.”


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