Butter Rum, affectionately known as Butters, came into the Sharp family when he was two years old. Katie Sharp was four.
Katie’s mom, Marion, fell in love with the beautiful young gelding quarterhorse cross, who was transported to Virginia by a real-life western cowboy. Katie rode Butters like the wind then, at an age when most of us struggle to tie our shoes, and rides him like the wind now.
Katie is now 13, all legs and sporting teenage braces and straight A’s at Rappahannock County schools, where she’s set to enter eighth grade in a couple of weeks. She lives and breathes all things equine and rides every chance she gets.
Last week in Kentucky, home of the famed Derby, she entered a competition at the United States Pony Clubs’ championship festival and won the Novice Girls Tetrathlon.
The USPC Championship Festival attracts competitors from all over the country, as well as some international entrants. The timed, four-pronged tetrathlon features stadium jumping, swimming, running and shooting. Katie had earned her entry spot at a regional qualifying competition last year.
To condition and prepare for the running segment, Katie says she’d run all over her farm, throughout the pastures and to and from the barn. Swimming was practiced several times a week in Warrenton; in warmer weather, her neighbors, the Fannons, let her swim in their pool.
Meanwhile, her dad set up a target shooting practice area in the yard to help strengthen her air gun skills, which she says was her weakest area. She practiced constantly.
She says the jumping segment at the regionals a year ago was a definite challenge, as she was intimidated by the 2.9-foot jumps. The event, both at regionals and nationals, is similar to the Virginia Hunter Trials, where obstacles and jumps test the mettle of both horse and rider.
Katie fox hunts with Old Dominion Hounds, and at the time of the regionals she was second flight (hilltopping), but started hunting first flight (going over jumps) not long after qualifying for the nationals. At Kentucky Horse Park, she tells me she wasn’t intimidated by the jumps anymore.
I ask if she thought she was going to win. “No,” she replies with trademark humility. “I thought it was going to be the experience of a lifetime and I didn’t expect to win. I did it for the experience, for the ride, for my folks and for Debbie Welch, my mentor at Pony Club. I had no idea I was going to win.”
Asked where she gets her inspiration, she answers without hesitation. “My folks, they’re my inspiration. They believe in me, and they tell me too I must get good grades if I want to continue with my passion, and so I’m motivated to work really hard. And Debbie Welch, she’s the head of the ODH Pony Club. She’s worked with me and with Butters from the beginning. She encouraged me to enter the event.”
In September, Katie and Butters will compete at Glenwood Park in Middleburg, where the regionals to qualify for the next level of tetrathlon will be held. This will be, she tells me, even more competitive, as the playing field won’t be limited to her age group — she’ll be competing against many contenders with more experience.
We wish you all the best in your endeavors, Katie, both scholastically and in your equine passion. You are just beginning, and as your mom so poignantly tells me, “Katie is my rock star.” Go for it, girl!