En­chanted run

When Sarah drives Magic, state cham­pi­onships fol­low

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Magazine & Pets - LINDA WIL­SON FUOCO

Ateam of two 15-year-olds from McCand­less has won three state cham­pi­onships in 4-H com­pe­ti­tion. The rib­bons and ti­tles go to Sarah Mee, a home-schooled sopho­more in the North Al­legheny School Dis­trict, but she couldn’t have done it with­out Be­lieve in Magic, a minia­ture horse.

Al­though she’s only 5 foot 3, Sarah is too big to ride Magic. The black mare is 36 inches tall from the bot­tom of her front hooves to the base of her mane and weighs 350 pounds. The max­i­mum weight Magic could carry on her back is about 60 pounds, but she is big enough and strong enough to pull a twowheeled plea­sure cart driven by Sarah. Last Oc­to­ber in Har­ris­burg, Sarah beat out 23 mini-horses driven by com­peti­tors rang­ing in age from 14 to 18 years old to be­come state cham­pion in Minia­ture Horse Driv­ing Junior.

With mul­ti­ple teams in the show ring, minia­ture horses walk and trot as their drivers are scored based on control and pre­ci­sion. Sarah and Magic also fin­ished sec­ond out of 31 in Minia­ture Horse Jump­ing, miss­ing first place and the state cham­pi­onship by a half sec­ond.

In 2017, Sarah won state cham­pion in Minia­ture Horse In-Hand Trail Junior and in 2016 she won her first state cham­pi­onship in Minia­ture Horse Driv­ing Junior.

About 1,000 horses, ponies and minia­ture horses and 4-H mem­bers ages 8-18, com­peted at the 2018 Penn­syl­va­nia State 4H Horse Show at the Farm Show Com­plex and Expo Cen­ter in Har­ris­burg Oct. 26-28. Al­legheny County was rep­re­sented by 16 riders and 17 horses. To get to Har­ris­burg, all had to beat com­peti­tors in county and dis­trict shows. Anas­ta­sia Pil­lar, a stu­dent in the Pine-Richland School Dis­trict, was state cham­pion with quar­ter horse Sham­rock, 28, in the Ob­sta­cle Trail/Min­i­mum As­sis­tance, which is part of the 4-H ther­a­peu­tic rid­ing pro­gram.

“In the ring, when they an­nounce first place, you know all your work has paid off,” Sarah said dur­ing a re­cent prac­tice ses­sion with Magic at Parkview Rid­ing Acad­emy in McCand­less.

In jump­ing and trail classes, Sarah holds a lead line at­tached to Magic’s hal­ter. She walks be­side the mini-horse, giv­ing oral cues and sig­nals. In jump classes, Magic is asked to clear seven or eight jumps with­out knock­ing down poles. In the trail class, Magic nav­i­gates ob­sta­cles, in­clud­ing gates, poles, cones and on some cour­ses, a lit­tle bridge.

Sarah is the youngest of Tracy and Amy Mee’s four chil­dren and the only eques­trian.

“We are thank­ful that she has found some­thing she loves and is good at,” Mrs. Mee said. Win or lose, Sarah en­ters and leaves show rings “with her chin held high and a big bright smile on her face.”

Rid­ing and show­ing horses “has given Sarah so much con­fi­dence. She used to be quite shy,” her mother said.

Mrs. Mee makes the sparkly west­ern shirts Sarah wears in the mini-horse com­pe­ti­tions. Mr. Mee, an engi­neer, makes the

jump hur­dles used in prac­tice ses­sions.

Like all ath­letes, Sarah and Magic prac­tice many hours per week, year round.

Sarah also com­petes on Rosie, 10, a 1,200-pound Bel­gian draft/quar­ter horse/ paint cross. Sarah rides astride the red roan mare. At the lat­est 4-H cham­pion show, their best fin­ish was sev­enth out of 28 in Hunt Seat Equi­tation on the Flat.

“I just love the horses so much,” she said. “It’s been re­ally amaz­ing work­ing with both of them and grow­ing with them.”

Sarah and Magic have an es­pe­cially close con­nec­tion. “Magic is one day older than me,” Sarah said.

Their birthdays are April 27 and 28, re­spec­tively.

Magic is owned by Tanya Haney, 33, and Rosie is owned by her mother, Wanda Haney, 65. Both women are Sarah’s rid­ing in­struc­tors at Parkview Rid­ing Acad­emy.

“Sarah has nat­u­ral tal­ent and is will­ing to try dif­fer­ent things,” Wanda Haney said. “Rosie is very strong and pow­er­ful, and Sarah is very pa­tient with her. She is a very ded­i­cated rider.”

Tanya Haney said Sarah has what horse peo­ple call a “good seat and good hands. She’s one of the best stu­dents I’ve ever had.”

Since 2008, Tanya Haney has in­structed and coached the win­ners of nine state cham­pi­onships, in­clud­ing Sarah’s three.

Sarah re­cently won elec­tion as the 2019 pres­i­dent of the North Ridge Riders 4-H club. In ad­di­tion to home school­ing, she is a first-year stu­dent at A. W. Beattie Ca­reer Cen­ter. She hopes to pur­sue a ca­reer as a vet­eri­nary tech­ni­cian while train­ing horses and giv­ing rid­ing lessons. She is a mem­ber of North Al­legheny’s track and field team, com­pet­ing in long jump and triple jump.

Lake Fong/Post-Gazette pho­tos

Sarah Mee, 15, of McCand­less takes a prac­tice drive with Be­lieve in Magic, a 15-year-old minia­ture horse, at Parkview Rid­ing Acad­emy in McCand­less.

Sarah Mee and Magic are three-time state cham­pi­ons in 4-H eques­trian com­pe­ti­tion.

Lake Fong/Post-Gazette

Sarah Mee brushes Be­lieve in Magic in the barn at Parkview Rid­ing Acad­emy in McCand­less.

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