Freshman heads to national equestrian competition
Ellie Wilberding shoves her feet into the stirrups and waits as her mom and dad binds her feet in them with rubber bands, as there are minutes before her turn to ride.
She is focused and tries not to let her horse feel her anxiety. The adrenaline is pumping.
“You learn to trust the horse more than yourself,” she said.
Freshman Ellie Wilberding’s horse takes off, and she glides around the barrel while the clock is running.
Wilberding has been riding ever since her grandma Kristine Woodland, who works here, took her horseback riding for her 11th birthday and she fell in love with the sport. She will have been playing for 4 years in September.
“What keeps me going back is that I love the adrenaline,” said Ellie WIlberding.
The first thing that happens is called the flag ceremony. It’s the Grand Entry when everyone is honoring our nation and state by singing the “Star Spangled Banner”. A few events later is the Flag Event. There is a flag on a barrel which the rider has to ride to, grab, and ride back to the starting point as fast as possible.
“The Flag event is my favorite. It’s more fun to me than the others,” she said.
WIlberding also loves barrel-racing, pole-bending, and goat tying. Barrel racing is when there are three barrels in a triangle shape and the rider has to ride around the right one, over the left barrel, over the top one, and then back to the starting point as fast as they can. Pole bending has a few poles 21 feet apart from each other and the rider has to weave in between them forward and then back to the starting point. Hitting a pole causes five seconds to be added to their time which could completely demolish their over-all time. Goat tying is pretty self-explanatory. There is a goat in the middle of the field that the rider has to ride to and tie up.
“I just have a few buises but its fine,” Wilberding jokes as she explains her goat tying tricks.
Grab the flank, put a knee on the front leg, get on the ground, and tie the goat’s legs together. The clock stops once you raise your hands and step away from the goat. It only counts if the tie holds for 6 seconds.
“You don’t know what kind of goat you’re gonna get,” she said. “It’s a totally different world.”
In 2017 she won over $1,000, and Youth Champion in the 3rd Division. Her two horses that help her place in the top 5 are Beau, who will be 7 years old on April 11, and Playboy, a rowdy 17 year old that she didn’t name. Beau is 16.3 hands in height and Playboy is 16.1. They are trained an hour or two a week with her trainers in Alvarado, Burleson, Elisha Todd and Lauren Williams, although Wilberding likes to be with them every single day herself.
“It is work. You have to take care of your horse. Train it.”
Even with how much work it is to take care of a horse, Wilberding would like to still train horses in college, which there are sponsorships for. She would like to go to Tarleton State University where they give you a colt (baby horse) to raise during your 4 years of college.
In April of 2018, Wilberding will be competing in the World Finals which are going to be held in Oklahoma. Riders with a Gold Car have to be invited. She hopes to get into the top 100 of the 500 competitors. They will have to do 5 races in 5 days which is different from 1 race a month during her rodeos that take place during November to September.
“I’m very excited and the planning process is huge,” said WIlberding. “We started last month and we’re not even close to finish. I’m nervous. I haven’t been to a race that big, and I have no idea what to expect.”
Be sure to root for Grace Prep’s very own Cowgirl during the World Finals in April being held in Oklahoma.