Thirteen-year-old Miller Middle School student Molly Stanifer, daughter of Devon Daney and Mike Stanifer of Durango, with her horse Dixie, was recognized Feb. 11 as the winner of the North American Trail Ride Conference Region 3 junior team award for the 2017 season.
Molly started trail riding at 4 years old and entered her first competition two seasons ago. At first, it was a way to continue riding and have fun instead of be competitive, she said. She completed two rides that season, in 2016.
“My favorite ride was the first one at Chicken Creek in Mancos,” Molly said. “The scenery was really pretty. I just wanted to have fun.”
Now, however, she’s really fired up about competing, and regularly trains with her mother and 10-year-old brother Finn. Last year, she started to embark on longer rides, 15 to 25 miles per day and six to seven hours on horseback at a time, and entered competitions more frequently.
During last year’s trail riding season, which starts in April and continues through the end of September, Molly and Dixie competed in six rides and finished five of them. Together, they completed a total of more than 200 miles at competitions in Colorado Springs, Denver and all over the Four Corners.
Trail riding competitions involve trail-finding and using a map to track miles each day. Stops occur regularly to check the condition of horses, and her brother Finn helps veterinarians at these stations.
Points are awarded by judges according to several categories and trail obstacles, such as crossing through water, backing while avoiding trees, side-passing logs, etc.
In addition to winning the Region 3 Junior team award, by the end of the season judges had awarded Molly enough points to rank her third in the nation for the 2017 Trail Ride Conference.
Region 3 includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Montana in the United States, and Alberta and Saskatchawan territories in Canada. It hosts competitive trail rides, clinics and an end-of-the-year banquet to honor the top competitors from the past season.
The North American Trail Ride Conference provides long-distance, competitive trail rides for riders of all equine breeds and disciplines, and promotes horsemanship and horse care in the sport of distance riding, through offering challenges and educational experiences that strengthen horse-rider partnerships.
Molly and Finn Stanifer, and Devon Daney, live in Durango, where they care for horses Dixie, Cowboy and James, and one donkey named Ziggy.
For more information about Region 3 of the North American Trail Ride Conference, visit www.natrc3.org.