For many teenagers, the thought of participating at a national or international competition may be only a dream. For the nine members of the Rockin’ T Equine Team, that dream will soon become a reality as they are set to compete July 5-11 at the American Ranch Horse Association World Show in Bowling Green, Ky.
“A friend last year told me, ‘Trish, you really should get a group of your kids together and try to go to this,’” said Trish Gibbons, manager of Fischer Stables and co-coach of the Rockin’ Ts. “Since August of last year we have been working toward seeing that idea happen.”
The nine team members are Mallory Holman, Nikki Kresl, Jill Billingsley, Dylan Schibi, Sydney Anderson, McKenna Clippert, Raylynn Steele, Diana Frausto and Megan Parks. Steve Schibi coaches the team with Gibbons.
All of the members are from Pettis County and surrounding communities with the exception of Nikki Kresl, who is originally from Jefferson City. The riders have devoted virtually all of their free time for many years working with their horses and developing their skills, which have brought them to this point.
“I went to State Fair Community College and graduated in May with a degree in agriculture,” Kresl said. “I heard about Fischer Stables and the team as part of an internship through the college.
“Even though I graduated a month ago, I decided to stay here and train so I can go to the event,” she added. “I’m really excited and it’s been comforting to be a part of something like this. We really are a family.”
The amount of time the nine members have spent together has made them become a family in many respects.
Many of the team members have been riding since they were very young, some as early as age 4. They are at the stables nearly every day, practicing their skills for the competition. On Sundays, all the team members have committed themselves to be at the stables to work and practice together.
“The kids come in every Sunday to practice,” Gibbons said. “They also critique one another. They learn so much that way.
“What a lot of people don’t understand is that for so many of them, they have given up sports and other extracurricular activities and commitments for this. They want to share with others what they have done,” she added.
The commitment they have to their sport and animals is one of hard work and time.
Many of the team members have competed at the American Royal. There, they are up at 2 a.m. to practice because of limited arena time and the number of competitors. They may take a short rest and then are out typically at 4 a.m. to bathe and groom their horses.
For the eight-hour trip to Kentucky, the group will leave at 2 a.m.
“You have to do a lot of planning to get to an event like this,” Gibbons said. “We leave early in the morning when it’s cool. It’s just easier for the horses.”
The team will take 11 horses in three trailers on the eight-day trip. Additionally, they will bring more than 45 bales of hay and individual zip lock bags of food, packed inside plastic storage for each horse.
They will also bring some bedding for the animals but will purchase some there.
“This isn’t an inexpensive sport,” Gibbons added. “For many of them this trip alone will cost between $2,000 and $2,500.”
To help offset the cost, the members have been working at various fundraisers. They sold Sonic cards and worked at an event at Perkins Restaurant earlier this year. On Black Friday, they were out selling coffee to early morning shoppers at Staples and Farm and Home Tractor Supply in Sedalia.
“These kids are a tremendous group of hard workers,” Gibbons said. “I know how hard they have worked to get here.”
Most of the team members will have the opportunity to display their skills when they compete at the Pettis County 4-H Horse Show on Saturday at the Coliseum on the Missouri State Fairgrounds.
“I know we’re going to make a lot of lifetime memories on this trip and at the competition,” Gibbons added. “For many of them, they may never have an opportunity like this again.”
Individuals who would like to help support the Rockin’ T Equine Team may do so by contacting Gibbons at 287-1099 or visiting Fischerstables.com.