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Catlettsburg teen reigning champ of reining horse title

July 29, 2018

ASHLAND, Ky. (AP) — A Catlettsburg teen is making headway in her career.

Emily Opell, 17, daughter of Steve and Tammy Opell, has won more than $43,000 since March in reining horse competition. Her latest win was in the youth nonprofessional category in the 2018 National Reining Horse Association Derby.

In reining horse competition, mostly quarter horses are used to demonstrate the control the rider has over the animal through certain patterns outlined by the NRHA.

Growing up in a family of riders, Opell said she has always ridden, but it wasn’t until 2013 that she began learning reining horse riding.

“I wanted to go trail riding one day but my dad didn’t want to go,” Opell recalled. “So he took me to Joe Wolfe’s barn and I got to get on a quarter horse and I loved it.”

She said she was somewhat familiar with reining before she tried it, but she didn’t know anyone in the area who offered it.

That year, she got a trainer and entered a few small shows. Following successes, she went to bigger shows, where she continued to win.

“My trainer moved after about a year and (Joe Wolfe) has helped me ever since,” she said.

As she got experience, she has gone on to compete in larger venues which have taken her to Jacksonville, Florida; Katy, Texas; and Oklahoma City — a 16-hour trip on which she did all the driving.

Because of the extensive travel, Opell takes online high school classes through an academy in Florida; she’s on track to be a senior this year and graduate in the spring, which she said she doesn’t mind.

She plans to make a career of reining.

As a nonpro competitor, she must train and ride her own horses and she can’t have a sponsor. Her future plan is to turn pro so she can train horses for others and have sponsors.

The relationship between rider and horse appeals to Opell.

“It’s the sport where you have the most control over the horse,” she said, noting her experience was with gaited horses like Tennessee walkers when she was growing up. “You can take the bridle off the horse and ride it with your feet. You have total control over the horse’s body and I thought that was pretty neat.”

She said quarter horses are the best breed for reining because they listen better than other horses.

Competition wasn’t new to Opell.

“I’ve always been very competitive,” she said. “Especially when I was in the fair ... I showed 1,140-pound steers when I was 7.” And she was five-time grand champion.

She has advice for anyone interested in getting into reining.

“It takes a lot of hard work and determination and you have to love what you do,” she said. “If you’re serious, look at websites and get a trainer.”

When talking about her competition, she also expresses gratitude.

“I have to thank my mom and dad,” she said. “They take me everywhere and let me do this.”


Information from: The Independent, http://www.dailyindependent.com

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