Local pair rides to championship title
Doug Ramsay photo
Monroe High School junior Leah Anderson holds the rein with her 9-year-old horse Scotty at her trainer’s Mike and May Edwards‘ quarter horse stables east of Monroe, earlier this month. The duo won the championship in the Level 2 category for Western Horsemanship for ages 14-18 at the American Quarter Horse Association’s Ford Youth World event this August.
MONROE — Monroe High School junior Leah Anderson is riding high after a whirlwind trip to a high stakes horsemanship competition this summer earned her the title of a champion.
An underdog at the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Ford Youth World championship, Anderson and her equine partner Scotty galloped from small-town showings to take the win on a national stage.
It was a long road for the duo.
Anderson, 17, had begun riding about eight years before, but she had progressed as far as she could with the horse she rode at the time.
Then last year her big sister Payton, who rode with the University of Georgia equestrian team, got in touch. She told the family about a talented gelding with soundness issues who needed some time off.
The Andersons took a shot on Gun Powder N Smoke, who they nicknamed Scotty. After a $20 donation fee, Scotty was theirs, and the bonding began.
Fast forward eight months to November 2017, and the team was in sync. Work with experienced local training team Mike and May Edwards paid off and they began showing success.
At the AQHA Youth World, they competed in multiple classes including horsemanship and Western Pleasure. She got eighth in Western Pleasure.
“Since my horse was so green there were a few elements he struggled with” and a few she struggled with, “but we found a good baseline,” Anderson said.
Before March, she had never competed out of state, but aced qualifying rounds in Las Vegas and Scottsdale, Arizona. Suddenly it was August, and time for the team’s largest stage yet.
A tiring four-day drive brought her to the unfamiliar hot and humid climate of Oklahoma City.
Preparing meant early mornings and late nights, sometimes staying up until 1:30 a.m. just to get practice time in the arena. Multiple daily contests kept the team excited but exhausted.
The horsemanship competition could hardly have been more anticlimactic. In the final, Leah Anderson, entrant No. 122, was up against Iowa’s Lily Anderson, No. 123.
“Oh dang,” Leah Anderson remembers thinking when the judge began to announce the results, “second place is still really good,” but then the judge finished the name. “No way,” is all she remembers thinking then. It had been a stunning run.
People asked “‘oh, how are you going to celebrate?’ I think we went to Applebee’s and back to the hotel and we were asleep at 7,” the winner recalled.
The next morning, Leah Anderson looked over to the desk and saw the trophy. The win finally sunk in.
Mom Lori Anderson puts the championship in context.
“A lot of girls have traveled the country eight or 10 years. It’s pretty amazing what (Leah and Scotty) accomplished in their first year together, when a lot of these girls have really expensive six-figure horses that have already won titles,” Lori
Anderson said. “It’s pretty cool to be able to build your own.”
When she isn’t training with Scotty or juggling two jobs to help pay showing expenses, Leah Anderson manages a slew of other responsibilities. She maintains a 4.0 GPA with honors and Advanced Placement classes, is vice president of a 4-H club, and volunteers at Snohomish’s Crooked Rooster Farms riding center.
For Leah Anderson, the trophy and title and all the accomplishments aren’t everything.
“I just like having the bond with the horse. I love my horse — he’s such a fun animal to hang out with.”
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