As the California State Fair wraps up and the vendors put away the trinkets and snow cone machines until next year, our family has cause to celebrate some accomplishments from the 4-H equine competition. My 15-year-old niece, Tara Coupe, competed in the senior level horsemanship events with her trusty mare, Miss Sweet Tucker, which everybody around the RMC Ranch calls Miss T, and came home with a fist full of ribbons. They say the horse’s name kind of respectfully around my brother’s house, which is tip off to what’s going on.
After the fair, I asked Tara how she liked the competition, considering she won a first-place blue in the senior horsemanship event. She said, “That’s my favorite. Even if Miss T isn’t behaving well, it’s more fun doing the patterns then just going around the rail at the walk, jog and lope. In horsemanship you can really extend into a jog, jog, lope, lope circles, jog circles, stop from a lope or jog, pivots, and backs. Sounds confusing and hard.” She stops and laughs when I roll my eyes. “As long as my horse listens to me, I do fine,” she said, suggesting Miss T listens just fine.
She said that to qualify for State Fair she had to win a 1st place ribbon at her County Fair (Sacramento) and this year she won 3, which gave her a chance to compete. A participant in the Wilton 4-H Horse Project in Sacramento County, Tara credited her leaders – Norma Struffenenger and Laurie Krogen, along with her assistant leader Melanie Coupe (her mom).
The key to her success is practice, she said. “You can’t rush things and you can only practice one thing at a time,” she tells me, sounding very grown up. “I usually take lessons two times a week with my trainer and ride a couple of more times at home. So I ride 3 to 4 times a week.
About her relationship with Miss T, Tara said, “Even though we have our days, she always takes care of me. She’s patient with me and she does great. She’s not one of the horses that are in full-time training and I don’t care, I still love her. I can tell she trusts me because whenever somebody else gets on her she tenses up and gets in a nasty mood. But with me she’s calm and listens.”
Being a blue ribbon winner at the state level comes with certain responsibilities, she said, “Everytime I’m done riding her I have to wash her legs off so she doesn’t get fungus. Also, when I feed her I have to make sure she’s okay and she isn’t limping or hurt. When she is hurt I make sure to put the medicine on. Last thing I do is after a long and tiring show I put Epson salts on her back, which makes her feel really good.”
Tara has been riding horses since she was 7, starting out with ponies. She started riding Miss T when she was 12. She taught her horse Showmanship, English, Western Pleasure, Jumping, etc. and credits her trainer, Suzanna Robinson, with lots of help on the details.
“But, my Mom and Dad have also contributed to our success because they buy everything I need for shows and practice. Also when I ride in our arena they keep reminding me to practice what Suzanna has told me. They also drive me and Miss T back and forth to lessons. Most of all, they both come to my shows and take pictures, and say if I was leaning back too far and such. Honestly, I don’t really have any activities I like to do other then ride. Well, I also like showing dogs.”
But, that’s a story for another time. In the meantime, we’ll just relish the win with Rockin’ Miss T.