Local riders compete in national event • Current Publishing

In a fateful confusion, two local girls were given golden tickets, but what they did not know.

It wasn’t until later, in September, that riders Ashley Vaught, 15, of Zionsville and Samuelle Leerkamp, ​​11, of Indianapolis discovered that the gold tickets were invitations to the 2021 National Championship of the Hunter Jumper Association of the United States in Las Vegas.

Leerkamp, ​​whose family lives on Broad Ripple but moves to Zionsville, has placed first in several events, even surprising herself. But his presence was not originally intended. His Golden Ticket was originally intended for Vaught.

Three years ago, Leerkamp and Vaught met in Zionsville at Canterbury Manor Stables, which offers horse riding lessons and camps. Vaught taught Leerkamp, ​​helping him during lessons at the stables, and the two became friends. Vaught mentored Leerkamp throughout his first month of horse rental, Rooster (Be Sorta Bad!). The girls have since become the big / little sisters of the Zionsville equestrian team within the ZEQ equestrian team.

“Over time we started to bond as a group with everyone there,” Leerkamp said. “We all get along. She started training me and my friend Emma a bit more to help us with more technical stuff, and we were really able to bond there because it was just us.

Ashley Vaught, left, and Samuelle Leerkamp take a break outside. (Photos courtesy of Samuelle Leerkamp)

Both girls competed in trials over the summer and performed well.

“Apparently the (Indiana Hunter Jumper Association) is reporting their scores, which we honestly didn’t know because we’re very green, very new to the horse show world,” said Leerkamp’s mother Deborah Jacobs.

Later in the year, a surprise awaited Leerkamp. Another girl told Leerkamp that she finished in the top five in the Indiana competition area and that Leerkamp won a “golden ticket”.

“We didn’t know what it was, so we had to do some research,” Jacobs said. “We asked some of the local trainers. They had never heard of it, so we had to keep looking and trying to figure it out. “

Leerkamp’s family, by chance, found the Golden Ticket in their spam folder.

“At first I had no idea how I got the Golden Ticket or what it was all about,” said Leerkamp.

After two days of searching, Leerkamp’s family discovered that the ticket was an invitation to the USHJA National Championship. However, Vaught was listed as the winner of the lawsuit. Ultimately, in practice, Vaught scored higher than Leerkamp, ​​which earned him a place in the national championship. But due to a bad point count in the IHJA system, a golden ticket was sent to Leerkamp, ​​who finished second.

When the error was discovered, Vaught received his invitation, and officials also honored Veerkamp’s invitation, meaning the girls could go to Las Vegas together.

But Leerkamp discovered that her trainer, Sandra Brady of Canterbury Stables, and her hired horse, Be Sorta Bad, could not travel due to her age. The Leerkamp family exhausted all possible resources to find a trainer and horse to compete in the national championships before hiring trainer Emily Farmer and her assistant trainer, Catherine Blessing, at Keepsake Stables, another barn, in Sheridan, where Leerkamp is training. The trainers donated one of their horses, Idol of Kings, to Leerkamp. After securing a horse, Leerkamp trained daily for 40 days to prepare for competition.

“I was nervous and excited at the same time because I had never seen a show like this before,” Leerkamp said. “And it was scary to be there. Honestly, I didn’t expect to get a ribbon there. I just wanted to be there for the experience.

Leerkamp finished first in the tricolor championship in the USHJA-affiliated 0.7-meter children’s jump division. Vaught was fourth.

“It was like Christmas had come early,” Leerkamp said of the experience. “It was really like a dream come true.”

What made Leerkamp experience extra special was the time she got to spend with her friend Vaught.

“It definitely made me feel more comfortable being there with someone I knew quite well,” said Leerkamp. “It made me feel like we were together and we were both going through the same thing because we were nervous, and it was our first time.”

Samuelle Leerkamp, ​​atop Idol of Kings, takes a championship break.

A love for animals

Samuelle Leerkamp’s love for the sport began on her eighth birthday, when she received a Groupon from her uncle for a free riding lesson.

“I was pretty excited because I really love animals, in general,” Leerkamp said. “But it wasn’t exactly the horses that interested me, it was all the animals. So I was really excited to have the experience, but had no idea that I would continue to ride and stick to it. I just really liked being able to share an experience with an animal, and I really liked learning how to control and really bonding with an animal that I could relate to.


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