Peninsula High senior Shawna Hettick had a successful showing at the Washington State Fair last fall, winning four state titles in 4-H equestrian competition with her 12-year-old bay Quarter Horse, Joey.
She won titles in showmanship, equitation (how the rider looks and how the rider makes the horse move through their patterns), oral reasons for horse judging and a persuasive speech on a horse topic.
“It was amazing,” Hettick said of winning four titles out of the 10 events she competed in. “I didn’t expect to come out with four state championship titles.”
Each event had about 120 competitors, making Hettick’s dominance even more impressive. Hettick got her first horse, Boopy, when she was in third grade. He’s now 24 years old and is used as a riding-lesson horse. Hettick got Joey when she entered high school.
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It has taken a lot of time and patience for Hettick to break Joey in.
“He was a very nervous show horse when I first got him,” Hettick said. “He’s much calmer now in the show pen.”
The key was repetition. Hettick has competed throughout various parts of the country with Joey, often.
“Just going through classes, more showing, helping him be more confident,” Hettick said.
Hettick gives horse-riding lessons as a source of income to pay for the cost of owning two horses. While Hettick expects to be among the top-eight competitors in each event at the Washington State Fair in September, she isn’t obsessed with winning a title in each event.
“I try not to focus on winning,” she said. “I try to focus on having the best possible ride. With performance and dressage, it’s all based on the judge’s opinion. You can’t have such high expectations and have the judge not like you that day.”
Hettick has a special bond with her horses, she said.
“I just love being around them” she said. “They’re my best friends.”
And 4-H has provided her with valuable life lessons.
“I really enjoy how much 4-H teaches you,” she said. “Most people don’t embrace that. I really have tried my best to do that. I’ve started my own workshops to help other people get better. I really love the giving back part of 4-H.”
While many people are quick to dismiss horse riding or showing as a sport, Hettick said it’s just as legitimate as any other sport.
“It takes time and years,” Hettick said. “Like many sports, but especially with this one, it doesn’t happen overnight. You’re riding a 1,200-pound animal that has a mind of its own. Things can go wrong, but when things go right, it makes it so worth it.”