Hilary Scheer was three-quarters of the way through the horse show season last year before she discovered that her pony Touch Me Not was leading in points towards the annual high score award offered by the American Horse Show Association.
"I just decided out of curiosity to call the AHSA in New York City one day and I found out I was in first place," said Scheer, 16, of Catlett, Va. "I was just really trying to win the title in Virginia and Maryland."
By the end of the season, the young equestrian did what takes most years to achieve. She won the high score award for green pony working hunters in Virginia and Maryland and the overall national title with the AHSA.
The type of competition she won is limited to riders under 18 on ponies in their first year of showing at events recognized by the AHSA. The manners and suitability of a pony for the rider are emphasized in all classes and extreme speed is penalized. A smooth and even performance is awarded. The jumps are set at three feet.
Scheer's pony, whom she nicknamed "Bam Bam"--"because he bangs his bucket around"--is 14.1 hands (one hand equals four inches) and is a 6-year-old bay gelding.
At the horse shows, Scheer is coached by Beverly Solter of Glen Arm, Md. In between the shows, she rides with her mother at home. In addition to Touch Me Not, Scheer also rides Scooby Doo, a medium-size pony that finished last season in the reserve position in Virginia and placed third in Maryland.
Before school each morning, Scheer feeds the ponies and after school she and her mother go riding and then clean the stalls. "My mother taught me to ride and put me on my first pony," Scheer said.
In gaining all three titles, Scheer won 70 first- and second-place ribbons and took the championship 25 times at 31 horse shows.
"I do all my own preparations for showing," said Scheer, an honor student in her junior year at Wakefield School in Huntley, Va. "I do all the washing and braiding. Most of the other children have grooms."
After high school, Scheer hopes to go to college and major in journalism or English. "I want to keep riding and I want to ride professionally, but I know you don't make a lot of money riding. I would really like to have a career and keep riding on the side."
Once Scheer discovered that Touch Me Not was ahead in points, she went all out trying to collect more.
"I just kept going to shows," she said. "The pressure was the worst thing. I had to keep doing well and be consistent."