Trainer Pam Cross with Cantera Farms at Sundance Springs in Shingle Springs quickly came up with the word to describe her student Patty Gill.
“She’s committed,” Cross explained. “She does this four to five days a week.”
For the last seven years Patty has dedicated her time to pony equitation. This past season the 13-year-old from El Dorado Hills and her 12-year-old pony Tucker (show name Well Said) racked up awards and honors that could take her all the way to Kentucky.
In the U.S. Equestrian Federation Zone X (California and Nevada) Patty placed third in the Large Pony Hunter category and the Stirrup Cup Large Pony Hunter category. With the Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association Patty earned champion status in Pony Equitation (Region 2, Northern California) and was named reserve champion in Pony Equitation (overall) and reserve champion Pony Hunter (Region 2).
These honors took the Gill family to Las Vegas this week.
On Jan. 15 Patty will head to San Francisco to receive more awards. She earned Pony Equitation champion status with the Northern California Hunter Jumper Association and received a third-place award in the Large Pony Hunter category and seventh place in Equitation 12-14 (age group). Patty is also an equitation graduate from Maiden, Novice and Limit divisions.
“I had my hopes but I wasn’t certain,” Patty said of her championship wins.
With these wins tucked in her saddle bag Patty has qualified for the USEF Pony Finals to be held in Lexington, Ky., in August 2012.
Mom Laura Gill introduced Patty to pony equitation when she was 6 after spotting Cross’ business while driving home from work. “I was really thrilled that there was something here,” said Laura, who had done pony equitation when she was a girl.
Patty started training on Merry Legs, a gentle pony that younger sister Corinne, 6, now rides. She took to it instantly.
“I just love it,” Patty said. “I don’t know why. I just do.”
Patty competed in 12 horse shows last season, most of them locally — a bonus for the Gill family since thy don’t have to travel too far or too much. At each show she and Tucker completed a set pattern of eight to 10 jumps while judges watched her form and how well she handled her horse.
“A good rider is somebody who has a good feel for the horse and really understands what the horse needs to be successful,” Laura said, adding that Patty knows how to bring out the best in Tucker.
“She grew into him,” said Cross, who worked with Laura to get Tucker ready for Patty. “He was too good to pass up. They’re the perfect match.”
During a recent lesson it was clear the two work well together … that is when a Village Life photographer isn’t in the way. Tucker didn’t appreciate the click of the camera but, Laura said, that’s a good lesson for Patty.
“These guys can have a bad day,” Laura explained. “You just have to ride through it, correct the problems and move on.”
Patty has been “popped off” a few times, Laura said. But that’s not what makes this mom nervous. “Where I get nervous is when we’re out at a show and she’s in the ring,” Laura said. “I’ve done all I can do. It’s up to her.”
Next season will likely be Patty’s last on Tucker. She’s outgrowing the 14 1/2 hands pony and will likely move up to a horse.
Whatever she rides, Patty said she wants to stay in the saddle for as long as she can. “I just love showing,” she explained. “I like the judging, doing what we’ve worked on and seeing what we need to work on.”