One of Genoa freshman Jessie Neff’s best friends is 6 years old and weighs about
1,000 pounds, and his name is Toby.
Jessie and Toby have come to be very close over the past few years. You could say that Neff, a first-year member of Genoa’s equestrian team, has fallen hard for Toby.
“He’s an Appaloosa quarter horse,” Neff said. “We borrowed him and I’ve been riding him since he was three. I’ve been showing him and riding him and we’ve learned a lot together. He has a good personality. He’s goofy and you can tell he knows when he’s being judged in the show ring. He goes into this zone where it’s like all business. He knows what he’s supposed to be doing.”
Neff, along with Genoa sophomore Emily George and Woodmore freshman Hannah Wagner, comprised this year’s Genoa equestrian team. The trio - along with their horses, of course - took second place Oct. 4 at the Ohio Interscholastic Horsemanship Association (OIHA) state meet at Vail Meadows in Oregon.
It was the first time Genoa has ever qualified for the state meet. This year’s squad, coached by Kim Skriba, placed second with 18 points - two points behind Defiance. Skriba, who hails from Genoa, is a 4-H Horse Club advisor in Ottawa County.
“The three girls I have, they really pulled it together,” Skriba said. “It’s an accomplishment just to get there. I’m very encouraged that we got this far. Genoa has never been able to earn points at the regular meet, much less win points at the state meet.
“In a few years, we ought to be really rockin’,” she said. “We’re so optimistic about next year. This year was kind of a learning experience.”
Genoa competed in District II, Division 3 at the state competition and competed in 24 riding events among the three riders.
“Throughout the season, we got a lot of first, second and third places,” Skriba said. “Each week, my girls participated in 22 to 24 classes at Bowling Green, at the Wood County Fairgrounds.
“We had very versatile riders,” she said. “They were able to do all the different disciplines.”
Genoa qualified for the OIHA state meet by earning the most points in its division during three meets held in BG Sept. 13, 20 and 27.
“It takes a lot of commitment,” Skriba said. “There are four meets if you make it to state. Showing horses is a family affair - Dad to get you there and get the horse ready, Mom and brothers and sisters brushing horses. It’s pretty intense. Mom and Dad are doing the sport right along. It’s more of a family sport and a lot of commitment.”
In competition, points are earned by placing in the classes, with first place worth eight points, second place worth seven points, etc.
Genoa competed in 17 classes at the state meet, including Western Showmanship, Saddle Seat Showmanship, Seat Showmanship, Saddle Seat Equitation, Saddle Seat Pattern Class and Saddle Seat Bareback Equitation.
Neff said she enjoys the competition and showing others that she knows how to handle her horse.
“I get nervous,” she said. “The first time in the first class, I’m always nervous. Then I settle down and get in a zone.
“Jessie is in my 4-H club, and she has so much heart and so much knowledge about patterns and how to work with her horses. She’s not afraid to try anything,” Skriba said.
Neff said she was happy with the way she and her teammates performed at Vail Meadows.
“We all did good,” she said. “We had a lot of support from everybody. Now we have something to look forward to and shoot for next year. I want to say thank you to everybody who has helped us, Kim and all the parents. We really did good and we’re going to work hard next year.”
George, who was in her second year with Genoa’s equestrian team, used two horses throughout the season.
“For the first two competitions, I used my horse Cutter,” George said. “She came up lame (ankle), so for the last two competitions I had to use Toby. Toby is young and he’s still in training. He did a lot better than we ever expected - way over our expectations for him.
“For what I do, the style of riding I do, he wasn’t originally trained for. We bought him two years ago and I’ve been working with him ever since. He’s just young and spirited. What he did, he did very well. I was really excited to do the equestrian team with Jessie and Hannah this year. We had a lot of fun,” George said.
Skriba said George had an “excellent” year.
“She usually does,” Skriba said. “The thing I like most about Emily is she’s very quiet with her horses. She handles them very quietly and kind of has an elegance about her when she rides.”
George was a little disappointed with second place at the state meet, “but everyone did as well as they possibly could.”
“Even getting second place in the state was more than I ever expected to get,” she said.
Skriba was in her first year working with Wagner and said the first-year Genoa equestrian team member performed well.
“Hannah has a horse, along with Jessie, who does contesting and performance,” Skriba said. “Hannah is also a very versatile rider. She pays attention and does patterns very well, too.”
Wagner, 14, who also plays varsity soccer at Woodmore, was thrilled to be a part of the team.
“It was fun because I always wanted be on a team with my horse,” she said. “I love the horse and I love showing him. To be on a team and show him and compete was really fun.”
Wagner’s horse, Moon, is 19 years old “and he’s still going,” Wagner said. “I’ve had him for three years. I came across him from a trainer and she told us about him. My other horse had to be retired, so she told us about Moon and he was a good horse for us.”
Wagner’s family has owned horses for four years.
“I wanted to ride and show horses since I was really little,” Wagner said, adding that Moon has been a show horse since he was two.
“He did performance and showmanship,” Wagner said. “Now I’m transitioning him so he can do barrel races and other contesting events. I really like to do that more than the performance. I like to do both with him because he’s good at both.”
She added that she was “fine” with Genoa’s second-place finish at the state meet.
“We did the best we could with the judge we had,” Wagner said. “I thought I did all right. Moon was OK, but I could tell at the end he was tired and wanted to be done. He did good for me before that.”
Emily George and Toby (registered name is He Is A Soldier) in English Equitation competition.