Around the rim of Reagan Moore’s bedroom there are dozens and dozens of championship ribbons — different sizes, different colors — each telling the story of how her interest in horses went from immediate fascination to dedicated obsession.
Moore, a 14-year-old Lutz equestrian, had her finest hour to date in August, at the World’s Championship Horse Show in Louisville, Kentucky, finishing sixth in the 13-and-under Saddle Seat Country Pleasure division.
Aboard her beloved black American Saddle Bred mare Whitney (known as Mountain View’s Last Dance during competition), Moore displayed expert discipline, timing and poise. She guided her horse through an intricate pattern of walking, trotting, extended trotting, then a halt (where the horse must stand on all four feet and not move) before the closing canter.
“Reagan is just comfortable on a horse and it’s really natural for her,’’ said Sarah Russell, Moore’s trainer. “From the first time I ever saw her at age 5, that was true. For a lot of people, it’s not natural and you kind of have to teach them how to feel what the horse needs. Not with Reagan. She knows.
“She has been competitive from Day One, always willing to put in the time. She’s at the barn practically every day. She basically lives there. She does whatever it takes to get the job done, so she deserves the credit.’’
When Moore was 3 years old, her maternal grandmother, a former barrel racer, took her to a horse show. That’s how it began. Moore was smitten. She had been riding ponies at the zoo. But, when Moore learned that she could actually compete, her young life found a new focus.
Very quickly, it went from sport to lifestyle.
Her mother, Allison, eventually returned to college for a degree in diagnostic medical sonography so she could become an ultrasound technician and “help financially support this habit,’’ she said with a laugh.
Moore plans to become an equine vet one day, so her mother figures it’s an equal trade. Truth be told, though, Moore’s mother has become equally obsessed with the sport and its trappings.
‘It’s all about the ride’
“People who haven’t been around horses might not understand,’’ Moore’s mother said. “We love the smell of a horse. There’s nothing like being around one. It really is a wonderful thing. It makes me happy to see Reagan so happy. I had her dancing for a while, but she hated that. She loves the horses, the competitions, and I just don’t see any way that’s going to change.’’
Moore, a ninth-grader who takes virtual-school courses, doesn’t want it to change.
“Horses are such amazing animals,’’ Moore said. “They make my day. They make me happy. I fell in love with them from the start.
“I think my competitions have made me more confident and more determined. I’m very driven academically and make all As. But, my passion is horses. There’s something perfect about it, being at the barn, riding, competing. I love it all.’’
Russell, who owns the Wesley Chapel stables where Moore trains, said she loves the way her student goes about the craft. Saddle Seat is a form of English riding. It requires plenty of discipline and training. One false move can ruin a ride, and the results of subjective judging can sometimes be frustrating.
For Moore, though, it’s never about the ribbon (although ribbons are nice). It’s more about the self-satisfaction she gets from meeting an internal standard. She also loves the relationship that can be built with a horse. Moore’s family purchased Whitney last year, and she says her horse is “very sweet, kind of feisty and really cool.’’
“I’m always happy during competition,’’ Moore said. “I’m smiling the rest of the day. Honestly, it’s all about the ride. It’s about how I feel. when I first started competing nationally, sometimes I wasn’t happy with the ribbon (I received). But, now I’m happy with the ride. That’s what matters.’’
“I told Reagan in Louisville that there were plenty of kids there like her who wanted it just as bad,’’ Russell said. “You never know. Maybe you don’t have your best ride or maybe another horse was better on that day. All I know is when other people might be fussing (over the placement), Reagan is always thrilled. She’s smiling and petting her horse all the way back to the barn. She has the best attitude and sportsmanship about the whole thing.’’
Moore is training for her next big competition, The Royal in Kansas City, and will advance to the 14-to-17 class next year, where she’ll be among the youngest in her division.
“I’m so grateful for everything I get to do and the chance to go up against all these great riders and horses,’’ Moore said. “Sometimes, I’ll look up at all the ribbons in my room and remember all the places I’ve been, and all the fun I’ve had. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m just as excited now as I was when I started. Every day I get to do it, it just makes me happy.’’
By Joey Johnston
Published September 16, 2020