Girl leaps hurdles on path to gold medal |

Girl leaps hurdles on path to gold medal

It appears as though a jockey is readying herself for a day of training as the horse trots around the arena.

This is no jockey. It is pint-sized Kendra Robison. The 11-year-old at 60 pounds and 4 feet, 6 inches is dwarfed by the 1,000-pound horse.

It is clear, however, this South Lake Tahoe youngster has complete control of her 13-year-old Appaloosa gelding.

She is the first to admit that it is a challenging sport that takes a great deal of dedication.

During summer, Kendra spends every day at the ranch. While school is in session, she is limited to weekends; getting in about six hours of riding.

“First I warm him up by walking, trotting and cantering him,” Kendra said of riding the horse, named Pegasus.

A canter is faster than a trot but not as fast as a gallop.

Something she is working on now is to break Pegasus’ habit of going from a canter to a trot. He should be going right into a walk.

“It should be a nicer transition instead of bouncing around,” Kendra explained.

Sitting astride Pegasus, Kendra reaches down to adjust the stirrups. What she is working on with her horse dictates the length. Stirrups are longer for dressage because a rider does not need the room between herself and the saddle as she would while jumping.

When Pegasus and Kendra leap over a barrier, it is a fluid motion of grace, elegance and muscle coming together.

“Little jumps are not scary,” Kendra said. “You never want to look down at a jump. You look up because the horse believes you have confidence.

“I lean forward — it’s called a two-point. That helps me push him forward into the jump. It gives him confidence.”

Kendra takes nothing for granted. When she is not jumping over barrels in the arena, she takes Pegasus into the meadow to leap over small fences. She scouts out the area to make sure he will not slip on anything or hurt himself on a rock.

Kendra puts boots on Pegasus so if he doesn’t completely clear a jump, he does not injure his legs.

She seems to care more about her horse’s wellbeing than her own.

A broken wrist is her worst injury. The horse she was on got spooked and she fell off. When she has fallen while jumping she just dusts off her black riding pants and pulls herself back into the saddle.

A helmet also helps with preventing serious injuries. Black boots and gloves complete the ensemble.

Kendra has been riding longer than she can remember. This is because her mom, Heidi, was on horses while she was pregnant with Kendra as well as with her 4-year-old son, Sonny.

“Horses were the best thing in my life,” the elder Robison said. “They kept me out of trouble.”

The Robisons make the sport a family endeavor. They board Pegasus at the Amacker Ranch off Sawmill Road when there is no snow on the ground. During winter he stays at the Amacker’s Gardnerville ranch.

Being an equestrian involves more than climbing aboard the horse.

Stalls need to be cleaned, Pegasus brushed, the riding gear properly cared for, vet bills paid, shoes replaced.

Despite the hard work, Kendra has no thoughts of giving up her passion. In fact, just the opposite is true. The sixth-grader is already eyeing East Coast colleges because of their extensive equestrian programs.

It is from those schools that Olympic riders come from. And the Olympics are the young rider’s dream — probably three-day eventing. This involves dressage, cross country and show jumping.

To get there she will be working with a trainer to develop her form and learn the intricacies of the sport. The availability of training is limited in the basin, so the Robisons will go to the valley.

There are several competitions between Gardnerville and Reno that Kendra plans to enter next summer to put her on the path to gold.

Kathryn Reed may be reached at (530) 541-3880, ext. 251 or e-mail

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