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Brittany Abernathy of the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) Equestrian Team was recently named as the 2017 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) National Western High Point Rider. This national championship is the first for the NEO Equestrian Team. Along with Abernathy’s championship, three other NEO riders placed in the top ten at the national show in Lexington, Ky. “After becoming the regional High Point western champion, I was filled with excitement and determination,” said Abernathy. “I knew that the competition would be tough at Nationals and that I would have to push myself to new levels every day. With the endless support from my coach, team, and family, I was able to improve myself as a rider and how I saw myself. The journey to nationals was incredible and one I’ll never forget.”

During the High Point Western Rider competition, Abernathy competed against nearly two dozen of the best riders in the nation. Riders were scored on both horsemanship, the ability to ride properly and maintain poise and form, and reining, the ability of the rider to guide the horse through a set of patterns. Following a random draw process, Abernathy had only minutes with her horse before entering the arena. “I can’t tell you how extremely proud I am of Brittany and her accomplishment of winning AQHA High Point Rider,” said Amanda Burrows, NEO Equestrian head coach. “Not only did Brittany have to excel in Horsemanship but she also had to be just as competitive in Reining. Brittany came into NEO being very successful in the Horsemanship, but over the past year has worked extremely hard and has become just as competitive in the Reining. It is fun and rewarding to coach students like Brittany, because she pushes me just as much as I push her. NEO is lucky to have had her represent the school and equestrian program with class, professionalism, and drive to be the best.”

Abernathy is a graduating sophomore from Indianola, Iowa and has been riding horses her entire life. She chose to visit NEO after competing in Tulsa and once on campus, decided to continue her successful high school career in college. Once in Miami, Abernathy began to train under Head Coach Amanda Burrows. “Coach Burrows has been one of the most amazing blessings in my life. She has pushed me every single day to be the best I can be. Not only has she improved my horsemanship skills, she has taught me to have self-confidence. It has been an honor to be a part of such a great and successful team and we all owe it to Coach Burrows. Without her countless hours of early morning practices, I wouldn’t be celebrating such an amazing accomplishment. My goal in life is to make an impact on a young rider in a way that Amanda has on me.”

Abernathy now plans to continue her education at Iowa State University after receiving her Associate Degree in Agriculture Business. At Iowa State, she plans to major in Agronomy and eventually earn a Ph.D. and teach at a university. She also plans to continue competing and promoting equestrian sports. “I believe the equestrian team has a spot for anyone and everyone. It allows people like myself who have been riding for many years to compete against very talented student athletes. It also allows students who have never even been on a horse to compete!”

She also acknowledged that the NEO administration has been critical in supporting agriculture co-curricular programs. “I would just like to thank NEO and President Hale for allowing us to have this opportunity to compete in the sport we love. It would not be possible without them! I would also like to say Congratulations to my other teammates who competed at nationals and all finished in the Top 10!”

Krista Rodney, Edson Varela, and Katie Daniels also competed at the show with Abernathy. Rodney, an animal science major from Bentonville, Ark., placed tenth in Open Horsemanship, Varela, a business administration major from Bixby, Okla., placed fourth in Advanced Horsemanship, and Daniels, an agriculture/equine major from Salem, Ill., placed third in Beginner Horsemanship. As Abernathy prepares to graduate, she shared some advice for incoming NEO freshmen. “My advice is that it is possible to push yourself in and out of the classroom, while still having time for your friends. Become close with the teachers, because they want to help you. Listen to your coaches because they will make you become the best you can be! Get involved and enjoy it because time flies when you are a part of such an amazing college!” For more information on the NEO Equestrian Program, contact Amanda Burrows at Amanda.burrows@neo.edu.

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