Hallsville teen gains experience and confidence by riding horses

Sunday, July 26, 2009 | 12:24 p.m. CDT; updated 3:44 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 26, 2009
Melissa Williamson, a 14 year-old from Hallsville, gains confidence and experience by riding horses. She spent the entire weekend taking care of horses and competing at the 63rd annual Boone County Fair Society Horse Show.

COLUMBIA — The soft sound of shuffling horses fills the barn. The occasional whinnies from the saddlebred horses fill the air, along with the sound of metal upon cement and the constant sound of fans cooling the horses. Melissa Williamson is up early again, cleaning stalls at the Boone County Fair Society Horse Show.

“I like cleaning the stalls — just not a lot of them,” Williamson said.

During this weekend's horse show, the Hallsville teenager was there from dawn until way past sundown, showing horses and helping people from Wildwood Stables get their horses ready to show.

Williamson, a timid 14 year-old freshman, has been riding horses since she was 9. She was hooked on horses from the moment she first saw them in the pasture.

Her mother, Mary, thought her daughter would simply learn how to ride.

“I had no idea what showing horses was all about or how expensive it is," Mary Williamson said. "It’s something she definitely has a passion for. It’s fun seeing your kid work hard for something they truly love.”

Melissa sits on top of her 17-hands-high Saddlebred horse, Checkers. He is easily the biggest horse in the barn, but Williamson and her horse trust each other enough to not let his height scare her.

“He’s really big," she said. "He’s tough to get in the bridal. That’s challenging. He’s a lot of fun to show."

She held a peppermint in her hand, scrunching the wrapper and teasing Checkers. He nuzzles her face, and she gives his velvet nose a kiss before she pops the candy into his mouth.

“Melissa is a natural,” said Heather Drummond, her trainer. “The more she is around, the easier it is for her to understand them. She rides all levels of horses here.”

“When she first starting riding with us, she was so quiet and timid, you could very easily forget she was there in the lesson or in the hallway or in the barn," Drummond added. "She was so incredible to watch grow because, as her riding abilities became more confident, so did she.”

Williamson walked to the tack room, checking her show schedule on the pegboard outside the door. Gold lettering taped onto the board reminds the riders to "have fun." When she wasn't competing, she spent her weekend in Barn 1 helping other riders groom their horses, muck stalls and get ready for their shows.

“She comes as early as she can and stays as late as she can,” Drummond said. “She does everything from cleaning stalls and getting other people’s horses ready to getting her own horses ready for her lessons. She does all of her work for her riding lessons. I would say that’s a pretty good deal for us. She works very, very hard.”

Once Williamson mounts her horse, her timid stance melts away and she is strong and confident, even when her horse acts up and tries to buck.

“I’ve been at the fair since Thursday, and we’ve been grooming horses during the day,” Williamson said. “It’s pretty tiring because you get up early and stay late, but it’s a lot of fun and I like it a lot.”

During Saturday's shows, Williamson took fourth and second place in the two classes she showed her horses.

“She’s just a great kid,” Drummond said. “I think no matter whether you teach riding or competitive sports or you’re a teacher or a parent, I think you hope for a Melissa in your life in some force or another.”

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Sari Hikari January 3, 2010 | 5:47 a.m.

According to the United States Equestrian Federation's suspensions list (see, the trainer mentioned in this article, Heather Drummond of Centralia Missouri's Wildwood stables, was suspended by U.S.E.F. on November 17, 2008 and remains suspended.

US Equestrian Federation rules state "A suspended person is forbidden for the time specified in the sentence to hold or exercise office in the Federation or any Licensed Competition, from the privilege of taking any part whatsoever in any Licensed Competition, and is excluded from all show grounds during Licensed Competitions, as an exhibitor, participant or spectator. Any horse or horses, completely or in part owned, leased or of any partnership, corporation or stable of such person, or shown in any name or for his or her credit or reputation, whether such interest was held at the time of the alleged violation or acquired thereafter, are barred from taking any part whatsoever in any Licensed Competition and are excluded from all show grounds during Licensed Competitions. Any Licensed Competition that permits a suspended person and/or his or her horse to take any part whatsoever in the competition is in violation of the rules of the Federation and is subject to disciplinary action"

Three questions are raised by the fact that Drummond is suspended:

#1. Why did the Boone County Fair Society Horse Show allow someone on the USEF suspended list to participate?
#2. Why is someone on the USEF suspended list working at Wildwood Stables?
#3. Why didn't the writer of this article mention the suspension? A simple googling of Drummond's name would have turned up the suspension.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock January 3, 2010 | 10:05 a.m.

Answers to your questions.

#1 Boone county probably didn't care.
#2 It is a free country and if Wildwood wants to hire him they can.
#3 It probably never occurred that to the writer who probably doesn't know anything about showing horses that there was such a origination as the USEF. I googled her name and I couldn't find the suspension without adding USEF.

Seems to me you have either a vendetta or your fancy yourself better than most. Maybe both since you created a profile just to comment on a story that was printed in July.

(Report Comment)
Kansas Wiley Stafford January 3, 2010 | 3:23 p.m.

If you are suspended by the USEF, you can not appear on the showgrounds of a USEF sanctioned event at all. Not even as a spectator. Even in Boone County.

You are right in that a suspended professional can still be a pro, i.e. derive income as a vet, trainer, groom, etc., but they can not set foot on a USEF showgrounds under any circumstances for the duration of the suspension, or the suspension time is automatically extended.

But the only USEF sanctioned gaited show in Columbia is the Calvary Episcopal Charity Horse Show, so she should not be penalized for being at the Society Horse Show.

(Report Comment)

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