by Katherine O. Rizzo
(first appeared in 
The Equiery June 2011)

Pony-Crazy Little Girls
How does a 10-year-old girl become the top hunter rider in the state? Great parents, great training and of course, a great pony. Sarah Boston’s road to the top only started three years ago when she took her first riding lesson at the McDonogh School in Owings Mills. “At McDonogh, the children get to ride for four weeks as part of PE,” said Sarah’s mom Sharon Boston. But before those first formal lessons, Sarah and her twin sister Grace spent lots of time begging to ride ponies at fairs. “I have loved ponies for as long as I can remember,” Sarah said.

When Sarah was in second grade, she caught the eye of McDonogh trainer Amy Dawson Moore during a weekly lesson. “She had a perfect tiny little position and always did what her trainer asked,” Amy commented. Amy went on to say that Sarah looked a tad bored in the lesson and figured she needed something a bit more challenging than regular lessons. “I leaned over the wall and told her if she tried really hard during her lesson I would give her my best pony and I would lead her in the leadline class myself at the next show. She gave me a thumbs up and that was that!” Amy added.

After winning most of the leadline classes she went to that first show season, Sarah moved into the short stirrup divisions and then into the pre-children’s classes. Last season, as a fourth grader, Sarah was paired up with Hillcrest Treasure Chest to ride in the children’s pony classes.

A Girl & Her Ponies
With Hillcrest Treasure Chest, aka Charlie, Sarah won big all season. She was the 2010 Zone 3 Finals Children’s Pony Champion, the Maryland Horse and Pony Show Children’s Grand Champion, the Maryland Horse Show Association Children’s Pony Reserve Champion and the MHSA Children’s Pony Resident Champion (for which she scored enough points to win The Equiery Perpetual Hunter Award). And all of that was just with Charlie, who Sarah describes as “very handsome and he knows it!”

With Charlie, Sarah even qualified to compete at the Washington International Horse Show on local day. She said that riding in the Verizon center was “really cool” and that she also enjoyed watching the big grand prix jumper classes. “I learned a lot there,” she said about WIHS.

“I thought it would take her at least the season to learn how to win on Charlie. I was way wrong, [at the] first show [she was] champion, and that is how her year continued,” Amy said.

In 2010, Sarah was also fortunate enough to ride Cherry On Top, and earned another impressive set of awards. With Cherry, she was the Maryland Horse and Pony Show Classic winner, rode in the BEST Small/Medium Pony MHSA Medal finals, was champion or reserve champion at every show she went to, and was the year-end MHSA Children’s Pony Resident Reserve Champion. Yes, that is right, Sarah not only won the MHSA/Equiery Award, but the next top rider for the award was herself.

Amy added that she gave Cherry to Sarah to ride because the two ponies are completely different and as a trainer, she thought riding the two ponies would be a big challenge for Sarah. “Wrong again. Champion or reserve at every show,” Amy stated.

Lessons From Riding
Sarah’s parents feel that she has learned a lot about life in general from her first few years of showing and riding. “She is sometimes a little reserved, but I think horseback riding is helping her become more confident. She has also learned how to overcome nervousness. This is a trait that serves her well when she needs to speak in front of her class or perform before an audience. Riding has given her confidence to have a strong voice,” Sharon said.

Sarah herself has learned that hard work really does pay off. “Charlie and I worked hard. I was very excited to win this award and am really proud of achieving this goal. It makes me feel like a good rider,” she said.

Amy agreed, stating, “Winning this award validates Sarah’s hard work all year. She was so proud of Charlie and loved going to the fairgrounds [for The Equiery’s showcase of Maryland champions] to show everyone how special he is.”

Sharon added, “It has been a wonderful recognition of a very strong season for her. It puts the icing on the cake as it were. She worked very hard and was lucky to have a wonderful pair of mounts and fabulous training.”

As parents, Sharon and Wally have also learned some lessons along the way. “Watch out if your child is asked to train! Be ready to go along for the ride,” Sharon laughed. “Seriously, however, it is so important to have a trainer that you trust,” she added.

Even sister Grace has learned some life lessons as well. “This year we rode together in the children’s classes for a short time and it was hard when I was happy about being champion and she was sad, or she was happy about being champion and I was sad,” she explained. And although these sisters are both competitive in their own ways, Grace said, “I am very proud of her for winning this award. She worked really hard.”

The Road Ahead
For the 2011 season, the Boston sisters have switched things up a bit in terms of their pony mounts for shows. Now riding four times a week and showing almost every other weekend, they are both on the long road towards great things.

Sarah is currently showing Blackberry and Lands End Wye Me in the small pony hunters. Amy describes Blackberry as being a very similar ride to Charlie, making the transition fairly easy for Sarah. “I am very lucky to have a pony like her and I am hoping for a successful year,” Sarah said. Sarah and Blackberry will be competing at Devon this summer and she is also hoping to qualify for WIHS again.

Grace is now riding Charlie, as well as Sham’s Loganberry, who she competed in 2010. “I am lucky to have two terrific ponies! Logan can always leave for the long ones and Charlie can really jump up from the bottom. They are both so much fun to ride,” Grace said. Grace is hoping to keep the Equiery trophy in the Boston family for one more year and has set her sights on being the 2011 winner!

Beyond the hunter ring, Sarah has grand prix dreams. “When I get older I want to ride a horse in the junior hunters but I also want to do the grand prix one day,” she said adding, “my favorite thing to do is jump.”

And jump she has. In just three short years, Sarah has jumped from leadline classes to the top of the children’s hunter world. And in the case of this award, she has jumped to the top of the Maryland hunter world as well, beating out many competitive juniors and adults for The Equiery’s Perpetual Hunter Award.

No one knows for certain what the future holds for Sarah Boston. Maybe we’ll see her each year at WIHS, climbing the stepladder from one level of hunters to the next, eventually crossing over into the jumpers and making her way from the top of the hunter world to the top of the grand prix jumper world as well.