Ten Las Vegas equestrians traveled to compete in the Utah Summer Games last month and returned home gold, silver and bronze winners.
Young women ages 11-19 competed in the 26th annual Utah Summer Games June 8 and 9 in Cedar City and represented Centennial Hills' Talisman Farms . The regional competition hosted athletes from Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and California in English-discipline horsemanship events.
The Las Vegas delegation bested other riders in equestrian dressage, combined training and show jumping and included adult and junior riders from a cross-section of skill and training levels, said Talisman Farms founder and coach Esther Hillner .
Dressage is a performance that showcases the discipline of the horse and rider. Show jumping involves hurdles and agility tests, and combined training blends both disciplines and helps determine tournament placings, Hillner said .
Competitors from Hillner's team brought home six gold medals and a host of silver and bronze placings, she said.
North Las Vegas resident Becca Springston , 19, won two gold medals in dressage events, the culmination of 10 years of equestrian training.
The first day of the competition came with literal hurdles for her.
"I fell off two horses and I was having a rough morning," she said. "I took all my emotions and thought, 'I just have to get back on the horse.' All my preparation would mean nothing if I didn't try."
Springston 's perseverance led to top honors.
"It felt really good," she said.
It was the first year that Spring Valley resident Alexandra Peterson , 11, qualified to compete in the games. She received a silver medal and a fourth-place ribbon in dressage events.
Alexandra said she's been a lifelong horse enthusiast, and equestrian riding was a natural interest. She began riding three years ago.
"I've learned it's really hard sometimes and you want to give up but you can't," she said. "You have to keep going and you definitely have to keep your heels down."
Hillner hails from Oregon, where there is a strong riding community, she said. Hillner was trained by former U.S. Olympians and renowned horse clinicians.
She traded the wet climate for the dry desert and began helping train equestrians.
"When I moved here 14 years ago, riding was very small," she said. "Western-style riding was very prominent."
Although rodeo events had a stronghold, English-discipline received a boost, Hillner said, when the FEI World Cup Finals for show jumping and dressage began being hosted at the Thomas & Mack Center.
"More people became aware, and it has picked up in the last 10 years," she said.
Hillner's team competes in a few local competitions, but the Utah Summer Games, for which she was a co-organizer, is an elite competition, she said.
"This is positive for Las Vegas because some people don't take us serious, " she said. "They have a misconception it's Western (style) and barrel racing. We're becoming better known."
For more information, visit utahsummergames.org/sports/equestrian-dressage.html .
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Maggie Lillis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-3839.