Parkes' Faith Green has been named in the Australian Quarter Horse Youth Team for the Trans Tasman Challenge this September.
She's also just claimed her first blue ribbon at the Australian Quarter Horse Association National Championship Show on a horse her family bred - and that she's trained herself.
That's no small feat for a 16-year-old.
Faith and her horse Storm travelled to Tamworth before Easter for the national titles in her sport of western pleasure riding.
The local combination took out their hunt seat equitation class in the novice youth category, and Faith was named in the Australian squad for their next big event: the Trans Tasman Challenge.
It's an incredible achievement and a thrill for the family - Faith's mum Teresa and dad Bull - who bought their first quarter horse when Faith was about nine.
They transitioned from local Pony Club to western pleasure riding and have never looked back, embracing the challenge of what is a very complex discipline.
While it's designed to look like horse and rider are relaxed, western pleasure actually involves years of training for both rider and horse, they explain.
"I've ridden Storm for two years now and he has still got a long way to go," Faith said.
The rider has to communicate numerous different strides and actions to the horse with barely a touch on the reins - it's all through their legs and voice command.
Most of their classes involve completing a set pattern of different strides and changing directions, pivoting or sliding to a stop.
They might open and close gates, or side step across a series of poles.
The nature and breeding of the horse is central to their success, so the Greens have been developing their bloodline carefully with a focus on having quiet horses.
After all, they might be competing at a national level one week, but they're back on the family's Goonumbla farm working sheep the next.
Faith started working with Storm from a very young age, showing him in led classes as a yearling and two-year-old.
Once he was old enough, Faith broke him in for riding and the pair have been working together daily in the arena at home ever since.
She's also just purchased a seven-year-old Palomino Quarter Horse who's been trained for western pleasure competition (well, what would you do if you had to choose between a horse and a ute?)
At a typical show they might have six changes of gear - including everything from Storm's bridle to Faith's hat and shirt to compete in up to 10 different classes.
"Presentation is a major part of it - it's all about the bling, I love it," Faith says.
Other classes require plain western riding gear or traditional English outfitting.
While there's only a handful of people in our region competing in this type of riding - Faith is the only NSW rider to be selected for the six-person team - Faith and Teresa have connected with others to help them develop their skills.
The Greens work with Nikita Noakes - another local who earned a place on this youth team for the Trans Tasman challenge in 2013 - and Justine Jones, as well as a coach.
They've found they've got community support as well: each rider has to raise funds to be part of the Trans Tasman and a fundraiser auction of a pen of sheep at Forbes last week has well and truly met Faith's commitments.
In the lead-up to the Trans Tasman Challenge, she'll have the opportunity to attend a number of clinics as well.
The Challenge is in Benalla, Victoria, and one of the other challenges for riders is that they don't actually get to ride their own horse.
The Australian riders each supply two horses but they won't ride their own as this would put the host nation at an advantage to their international counterparts.
The horses will be put into a pool and graded by trainers, then allocated to riders.
We wish Faith and the Australian team all the best!
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