Two years after becoming a team, Montpelier has brought home a State Championship.
The four-member team, Michael Counts, Jessie Reader, Ashtin Norrick and Jessica Cheesbro, came together in 2015 and with Gloria Reader’s help (Jessie’s mom), got the support of Montpelier Superintendent Jaime Grimes to form a club.
All of the riders except for Cheesbro are from Montpelier, she is from North Central.
The team raised its own support through car washes, candy and candle sales and other fundraisers and sponsorships to pay for entry fee, uniforms and league fees. Parents of the riders helped out as it costs more than $100 to equip a rider. Gloria Reader and assistant coach Erin Hausch of West Unity help out with anything the team members don’t have.
“If we’ve got it, we will supply it for them,” Reader said.
Cheesbro leased her horse coach Reader said.
The team’s competitive season started Sept. 25, although practices began in the spring. The season doesn’t begin until all the county fairs in the state are complete, Gloria Reader said. This allows the riders to do all the other shows and fairs that take place in the summer and early fall, she said.
The team won its double meet Sept. 25, besting Notre Dame and St. Ursula. On Oct. 3, the team knocked off Notre Dame and St. Ursula again. That gave them the district crown and qualified them for state at Fulton County Fairgrounds Oct. 9.
The ending scores at the first meet (which was a double meet)were: Montpelier 89, St Ursula 88, and Notre Dame 18. Jessie Reader earned 72 points and Jessica Cheesebro earned 17 points for the team.
The second meet: Montpelier 51, St Ursula 30, Notre Dame 13. Jessie Reader earned 37 points, Ashton Norrick earned 3 points and Jessica Cheesebro earned 11 points for the team.
Under the organization umbrella of the Ohio Interscholastic Horsemanship Association, there are nine schools in Division 1, of which Montpelier is a part. While all nine schools compete at a meet, scoring is applied only to teams of similar size.
So in Wauseon, the Locomotives beat Lake and Genoa (champions of two other divisions in other districts) to claim the top prize.
Montpelier scored 34 points, Genoa 26 and Lake 9.
The young people have specific events they compete in, with Ashtin and Jessica doing the competition runs and Jessie and Michael the pleasure runs.
They participated in classes that can have 17-30 riders. A meet can last 12 hours, but at the state final, Montpelier was done by 4:30 p.m. because there were two rings.
Jessie Reader competed in: Western Showmanship,English Showmanship, English Equitation, Bareback English Equitation, Western Horsemanship, Bareback Western Horsemanship, Trail, Western Riding, and Western Reining.
Michael Counts competed in Western Showmanship, Western Horsemanship, and Trail.
Ashtin Norrick and Jessica Cheesebro both competed in Barrels, Poles, Speed & Action, Keyhole, Flag Race, Stakes Race and 2 Person Relay Race.
At the State meet the scores were: Montpelier 34, Genoa 26 and Lake 9. Jessie Reader earned 31 points and Jessica Cheesebro earned 3 points for the team.
The team had been doing well that day, but when Gloria’s daughter finished second in the Trail Class, they knew they had the crown.
“The kids were all excited,” Gloria Reader said.
“I was really excited that we won state for the equestrian team,” Ashtin Norrick said. “It was really cool since we didn’t get it last year.
“I felt like we needed to get it this year since it’s me, Jessica Reader and Jessica Cheesebro’s last year. So I felt we achieved a huge goal.
As with every high school level team, graduation will mean turnover in the roster. Next year only Michael will return to the squad. There are two other kids who have said they want to be on the team.
“We will have a team,” Gloria Reader said. “Anyone who wants to (be on the team) just get a hold of us.
“We definitely want to keep it going.”
The team at a glance:
Ashtin Norrick is a cheerleader at Montpelier and does varsity football and basketball games. Over the summer she was also on the competition squad.
Extracurricular activities include being on the Stars and Stripes 4-H club. She is the vice president.
“I have been in the club for nine years now and have one year left,” Norrick said. “I love showing at the Williams County Fair. I show my horse Diesel and a lot of rabbits too.”
Jessie Reader is a veteran of equestrian competition, having been a part of the Williams County Equestrian Team before joining the Montpelier contingent. As part of the Williams County team, Jessie won the Pleasure High Point award, and in 2015 on the Montpelier High School Equestrian Team she won the Overall High Point award.
Jessie has been showing horses for nine years, but she has been riding horses since I was old enough to get on a horse. She has been a member of the Thundering Hooves 4-H club for 13 years.
She was the 2013 and 2016 Williams County Horse Queen. She is a member of the American Paint Horse Association, the Appaloosa Horse Club, and the National Honor Society. I
Jessie has won multiple Grand and Reserve Champion awards over several years at the Williams County Fair. She has shown at the Ohio State Fair for three years and won multiple Top Ten placings along with the State Championship for Trail In Hand in 2013.
“This year has been by far has been the best show season of my career,” Jessie said. “My horse Zippos Golden Boy (Andy), and I won 11 age group High Point awards and three overall High Point awards.
“I showed two open horse show circuits this summer and won multiple year-end awards for both, including Overall Circuit Champion for one circuit. Andy and I also did great for the equestrian team this year.
“Making it to the state meet for the equestrian team and then winning the State Championship for our division was a perfect way to end a very successful show season. I was very excited to win the State Championship since this is my last year on the team, and it is the first year in Montpelier history that the equestrian team has won a State Championship.
“I was very proud to represent my school at the state meet, especially by winning the state championship.”
Jessica, from North Central, is on that school’s track and volleyball teams.
Michael loves to ride and show.
James Pruitt may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org