Treiber, Twister complete wild journey on the national stage
Kelley Treiber, a 17-year-old senior at South Tahoe High School, participated in all the traditional sports growing up in South Lake Tahoe, including the Buddy Werner ski league and the Heavenly Ski and Snowboard Foundation. Her athletic career, though, has taken her down a different path than other South Shore teenagers.
In October, Treiber and her horse “Twister” competed in the Arabian Horse Association National Championships in Albuquerque, N.M., and placed in the top 10 in the performance class. The national championships fulfilled a decade-long journey.
“The long and winding road had a gratifying ending,” said her father, Mark Treiber. “It was as epic a tale as any movie … it was an amazing journey. In the weeks leading up to nationals, Kelley was down at the barn every afternoon after school until well after dark, getting Twister ready for his trip.”
Kelley Treiber’s road to Albuquerque involved – like her horse’s name – a lot of twists.
She grew attracted to horses about 10 years ago when her mother took her and her younger sister, Madison, to Minden for horseback riding lessons. In the early years, both Treiber girls were taking lessons several times a month at the Deborah Johnson Training Center in the Carson Valley.
They would train rain or shine, cold or hot. The training arena was sheltered on two sides, enough to keep the sun out in the winter but cold wind in. The two girls would stay for hours most days, including weekends.
“A memory I’ll always have is when Kelley, then about 10 and about 50 pounds and four-foot nothin’, had to go out and catch and halter one of the more cantankerous horses,” Mark said. “This thousand-pound animal is running tight, little circles around Kelley, throwing his head back and looking ready to do some damage. Kelley’s not even phased. Sure enough, she keeps looking the big guy in the eye, swinging the lead rope around his proximity and he backs into a corner and lets her put the halter on.”
Before long, Kelley parlayed her intensive training into competing at horse shows. About five years ago, the family purchased an Arabian horse named “Pharley.” Pharley enjoyed some success against more expensive horses in regional competitions, but his health declined to the point where he could no longer train every day or at such a high level.
They moved Pharley to the Cari Thompson Training Center in Gardnerville, continuing to train him. But last year, Kelley’s trainer came across a black gelding named Twister, a personable horse bred and raised at a ranch in Washington. The family committed to get Kelley and Twister to nationals, even though it placed last in its class in their first competition together.
They attended more competitions and believed in Cari Thompson, who was convinced Twister was a national-level horse. Kelley, for her part, continued to raise money to attend nationals all summer, working 10-12 hours each day at Zephyr Cove Stables. She took tourists on horseback rides, mucked stalls, fed the herd and put up with lots of heavy lifting.
“I had my ups and downs,” said Kelley, who carries a 4.16 grade-point average. “It’s my passion, and it’s been so good to finally feel like it has come together.”
Kelley and Twister finally got to Albuquerque, where they didn’t make the first cut in the halter class. But because they made cuts early in the week in the performance classes, they qualified for the weekend finals and rode against 20 of the top Arabian Hunter Pleasure horses in the country.
She plans on bringing Twister with her next year when she attends college. She’s looking at several schools in California as well as Cornell University in New York.
First, though, she is planning on competing again at nationals and seeing what success comes her away again. Whatever school she decides to attend, Twister is coming with her.
“It’s going to be an obstacle with college, but I already made the decision that he is coming with me,” Treiber said. “Whatever it takes to drag him along, that’s what I will do. We’ve been through too much together. I can’t leave him.”