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For Kennett High student Kristina DeWitt, it's perfect or nothing!

Freedom sophomore has A+ grades and championship equestrian skills

Ingrid DeWitt. (click for larger version)
December 17, 2009
When Kristina puts her effort into something she doesn't settle for good — she goes for excellent. With a four-point-one-nine grade point average in her studies, and hundreds of ribbons for her performance on a horse, Kristina gives definition to the expression, "slightly better than perfect."

At the N.H. Hunter Jumper Association's Silver Bell semi-formal banquet and award ceremony held Sunday, Dec. 6, at the Radisson in Manchester, Kristina walked away with not only the top prize for best rider in the state for ages 18 years and younger, but also a gold medal for the most points in the series; first place in the Stone Pony Classic Challenge for the year; and Reserve Champion (second place) in the 12 to 14 Equitation contest; third place for Children's Hunter Pony; and fifth for Modified Junior Hunters.

When asked how she was able to achieve all this, her simple answer was, "hard work and lots of practice."

Kristina begged her mom for pony rides starting at age four. It was love at first sight with all things related to horses, and she finally convinced her apprehensive mother that she was old enough to begin riding lessons at age nine.

She's been riding and training at the Burnt Meadow Stables under the tutelage of Sherry Donabedian for the past six and a half years. In the last three years, she has turned her love for horses into an opportunity to display her horsemanship skills through state and national competitions.

For the past several summers, Kristina has spent six days per week, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the stables. It hasn't all been fun and glamor. She's done it all — cleaning stalls, grooming, feeding, bringing the horses in and out of the barn, learning, observing and practicing at every opportunity. During the school year, she cuts back to two hours per day, five days per week.

Show days can be especially grueling. For single day in-state shows, she needs to be at the barn by 4 a.m. to help load the horses and gear. Often they don't return until 9 or 10 p.m. For multi-day competitions, which can include national events, Kristina needs to pack clothing for herself, and shavings, hay, grain, blankets and tack for the horses. Event days begin before dawn preparing for competition classes which start at 8 a.m. and continue until dusk.

This year Kristina competed in six-plus shows with her favorite horse, Henri, who at age 17 is just a teenager himself. At 14.2 hands, Kristina quickly explains to me that Henri is technically a pony.

Kristina doesn't own Henri but she leases him from Burnt Meadow Stables. For the opportunity to compete with Henri, Kristina had to make the hard decision to sell her own horse, Marty, because he was too inexperienced to compete in shows.

Kristina's dream is to some day be a contender at the Olympic games. Beyond that, she would like to pursue a career in veterinary medicine with a specialization working with horses. Her plans include attending college and participating on an inter-collegiate equestrian team. Kristina loves everything about riding, but she most enjoys working with her horse. "I like to know that at the end of the day I have executed well. Getting the horse to do what I want him to do is very satisfying," she says.

Trainer Sherry Dona- bedian has been in the business of horse and rider training, horse boarding, providing sleigh rides and hosting summer horse camps since 1991. Her stable is a member of the New Hampshire Hunter Jumper Association, the United States Equestrian Foundation and the United States Hunter Jumper Association.

Shows sponsored by the national organizations offer many more participants and therefore a higher level of competition. Kristina has begun to compete at those shows in order to enhance her abilities and hone her performances. In August, Kristina attended a show in North Hampton, Mass., where she qualified for the Massachusetts finals.

Burnt Meadow Stables is very proud of Kristina and the two other riders under Sherry's guidance who were honored at this year's awards banquet. Jackie Nicastro, riding Ms. Scarlett, and Dana Williams, riding Ursula, also earned ribbons for their show performances in 2009.

I asked Kristina, "Now that you've earned the highest award for a Junior Rider, what's next?" Her reply, "Jumping higher fences." Both figuratively and literally, it's obvious that Kristina is up for that challenge. I'm sure that we will be hearing more about this talented and dedicated young woman in the years to come.

If you would like to learn more about what Burnt Meadows Stables offers, visit Sherry at www.burntmeadowstables.com. And if you happen to see Kristina, she'll probably be busy studying or practicing her sport. While congratulations are definitely in order, there's no doubt that Kristina will not be resting on her laurels as she sets her future sights higher.

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