University of Wisconsin-River Falls

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Oct. 17, 2003

UW-RF's Schwartz 'Reins' at Championship
By Jessica Campbell
UW-RF News Bureau

Most infants' first words are "mom" and "dad."

When Clarissa Schwartz's first words were "horse" and "neigh," her parents knew she would be a horse lover. They signed her up for riding lessons when she was just six years old and Schwartz has been riding ever since.

Schwartz's love for and experience with horses earned the UW-River Falls freshman the award of Grand National Champion in Gold Medal Equitation recently at the Paso Fino Grand National Championship Horse Show.

The Grand National Championship Horse Show took place in Perry, Ga., from Sept. 14-20. Clarissa Schwartz and her horse, Angel, surpassed 15 other competitors to win the class. In this competition, three judges look at overall presentation and poise by the rider, as well as performance of a specific pattern of movements. Impromptu questions about the horse's anatomy or tack (the horse's gear) are also asked of the rider. The movement patterns are posted a few hours before the show in order for the riders to review and study them. The only other preparation involved is the consistent years of training, experience, and trust between the rider and the horse.

Schwartz has claimed two previous national titles as Reserve National Champion. Last year, after her second championship, Schwartz retired her horse, Rico, and purchased Angel, who Schwartz describes as a "hotter" horse. The more experienced show horse helped advance her at the show this year.

"She's a very outgoing mare, and she likes to take control." Nevertheless, Schwartz and Angel have a trusting relationship of cooperation and teamwork that led to this year's victory. All competitors in her class had performed the movements well, but it came down to a particular maneuver, called side passing, that only Schwartz and Angel were able to execute. It was a lateral movement that many horses get confused about when given directions from their riders. Angel had never done it before, but "I was able to train her on the spot because she trusted me," said Schwartz.

Schwartz began riding Paso Fino horses about five years ago when her parents bought two at the Parade of Breeds horse show, at the state fair. She was there competing on the Junior Equistriam Team, when her present-day trainer fancied her performance and recruited her to ride in national championships.

Paso Finos are a gaited-breed. They bounce from side to side instead of up and down like Quarterhorses or Thoroughbreds. The different gait and frame of a Paso Fino doesn't allow them to be combined with other horses in horse shows. Quarterhorses and Thoroughbreds are slower and quieter.

Schwartz describes Paso Finos as hot-blooded and spunky. She fell in love with Paso Finos once she began riding them. Now she says, "I wouldn't ride anything else."

Schwartz undertakes the long drive to Stable Frost Training Stable in Mapleplain, Minn., to complete riding lessons with her horse two or three times a week. The lessons can last as long as 1-1/2 hours. During the winter months, Schwartz takes it easy on her mare by riding bareback, and in the summer they go for long two- to three-hour rides every day.

Along with winning the Grand National Championship in September, Schwartz was also named Youth of the Year. This award is given to a youngster between the ages of 13 and 17 that have displayed the most dedication, volunteerism, and have radiated the most spirit. In her last year of eligibility, Schwartz said she was honored to receive this award. She will move on to the amateur class in Feb. 2004, with her first competition in Ocala, Fla.

Schwartz is enrolled at the UW-RF as a health and human performance major. She is interested in personal training, or personal training education, massage therapy, or physical education. Despite her busy schedule, she plans to continue competing in horse shows.


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