Two 7-year-olds competed at the Missouri State Fair in August and returned home to Valmeyer as horseback riding state champions.
Brynlee Brown took home two champion titles in the ages 6 and under division: Walk and Trot Equitation State Champion and Walk and Trot Horsemanship Champion.
Kameron Hicks was named Lead-Line Walk Only 8 and Under State Champion.
Both also did well in their qualifying classes. Brynlee took second in the Walk and Trot Equitation and third in the Walk and Trot Horsemanship for her age group, while Kameron placed third in Lead-Line Equitation and Horsemanship for his age group.
Making these feats even more impressive, Brynlee and Kameron are both new to the ring. This was Kameron’s first horse show and only Brynlee’s fourth. Both are enrolled in the Redwing Farm Academy Program under trainer and riding instructor Hilary Wilcox.
“It’s awesome and super rewarding,” Wilcox said of her championship students. “The kids work really, really hard and it’s awesome to see how much it means to them and how much it changes their confidence level, not just when they’re riding, but also when they’re interacting with other kids at the barn.”
The first time Kameron rode a horse was on a family trip to Tennessee last year. The first-time rider dazzled his family with how well he did on the 1.5-hour trail ride.
His mother, Dawn Hicks, said while she did not automatically think to sign Kameron up for lessons, it was a very natural evolution.
“My mother was very involved in horses, and she passed in 2005. Kameron is a huge, huge animal lover, (but) we just hadn’t really found his thing, so one night it just kind of clicked and I thought, ‘He would really, really enjoy (riding lessons),” Dawn explained, later reflecting on Kameron’s first ever riding experience last year, “I don’t know why it just didn’t come together for me a little sooner, but when it did, it just kind of made sense.”
For Kameron, the decision to ride was simple:
“I love animals, and I love horses,” he said.
In fact, horses are his favorite animal.
Kameron first started riding at Redwing, located west of Waterloo, in late April, and by August he was decorating his room with the ribbons he brought back from the Missouri state show.
Brynlee came into the ring in August with a little bit more experience than Kameron, but this was still her first time winning at the state level. She began riding lessons at Redwing almost a year ago and has competed in shows in Kansas City and Indianapolis.
“I like it, but I don’t like the long drive,” Brynlee said.
Her first taste of competition, however, was at the Redwing Farm Fun Show.
“People who do lessons at the farm can do this ‘Fun Show,’ and it just kind of gives them a little taste of what it’s like to compete, and after that, Brynlee was like, ‘I really liked that, I want to keep doing that,’” Brynlee’s mom Jamie Brown explained. “That’s when Hilary told us about the academy program, so we started doing that.”
Much like Kameron, Brynlee’s love for horses traces back to her grandma.
“She’s always liked horses,” Jamie said, explaining that Brynlee always wanted to pick up horse figurines from the store. “She always talked about wanting to ride a horse, and then my mom got a horse. She rescued a horse from a shelter. He ended up being able to be put under the saddle and ride, so (Brynlee) rode him a couple of times.”
Brynlee first rode her grandma’s horse when she was 4, and now she rides as a state champion.
Wilcox said both Brynlee and Kameron have a special attribute that makes them stand out from their competition.
“I think what makes them so good is that their personality comes through when they’re riding,” Wilcox said. “They have a spark that makes you want to watch them ride, makes you want to look at them and makes you want to watch them go around and see if they’re really as good as that glimpse makes you think they are.”
Wilcox, who has coached world and national champions, said she knows both have bright futures.
“The sky’s the limit for where they could go. They could end up being world and national title holders if they keep working the way they are,” Wilcox said. “I just want them to keep enjoying the sport and reach whatever their full potential is.”
They both wish to continue the sport. When asked what she wants to do with her future, Brynlee automatically answered with a cheerful, “Be a horse trainer!”
For more information on Redwing Farm, visit redwingfarmllc.com.