September 3, 2014

Reining reigns with horse enthusiast

Enochs High School junior finds joy and success in equestrian competitions.

You know a dedicated horse enthusiast when she is readily available for an interview on horseback.

Courtney Yohey, a 16-year-old junior at Enochs High School, is not your typical teenage female horse lover. Her mother encouraged her to become involved with her own passion for competing in equestrian competitions. Though she doesn’t compete any longer, she supports her daughter’s endeavors.

Yohey has always had horses, but one individual at the stable competed in reining, sparking her interest in that competition. “I begged my mom to get me a reining horse, which became my first reiner,” Yohey said, referring to a horse used and trained for reining competitions.

Yohey now has two reiners. Reining is a series of maneuvers in a pattern with alternating speeds, “slide-stops” and turns. “You need the horse to be on a loose, one-handed rein, that is willfully guided,” she said.

Competitors are judged on their score, starting with a 70, then points are deducted or awarded based on their maneuvers. Yohey’s best score is 73.5. Her success has led her to be featured in a national reining magazine. The article focused on her relationship with one of her horses, which has been fostered over a span of seven years.

Her other horse is a “derby” horse and competes against other 4-, 5- and 6-year-old horses.

Depending on how busy she is with school and homework, Yohey tries to work with her horses every day. She’ll spend one hour “warming up their muscles, just like an athlete.” If a contest is approaching, she will do exercises and practice maneuvers for about an hour, patterns with her horse trainer. One day of rest is necessary since they work so hard the rest of the week.

In July, Yohey placed 15th out of 139 in the preliminary round of American Quarter Horse Youth Competition in Oklahoma City, then placed 14th in the finals.

Her most memorable experience, however, was in 2012 at the Regional Affiliate Finals, marking her highest score ever and winning a saddle.

Yohey is grateful to her parents, Patrick and Sheree Yohey, and her horse trainer, Mark Harnden. She plans to major in animal science with an emphasis in equine to become a horse trainer. “I’m always up to go ride. I never not feel like riding. I couldn’t imagine life without it because it’s all I do.”

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