By Patrick Dillon
oklahoma city – For the third year of her collegiate career Fresno State’s Taylor Brown qualified for the Nation Reining Horse Association’s (NRHA) Collegiate Reining Championships on Friday, June 30. With this being her last time to participate in collegiate competition, Brown had her best performance in the championship, a third place overall finish with a score of 216, atop a horse named Better Not Rest.
“It was a lot of fun, I was happy to draw such a nice horse for my last time,” said Brown. “He is a very well known show horse, so it was fun being able to go out and just have fun.”
The luck of the draw was crucial to Brown’s top three finish. In the championship, the 12 riders represent three collegiate equestrian organizations (NCEA, IHSA, NRHA). They must select a horse at random. However, it must be a horse that they have not ridden before and one they have not seen.
Riders then are allowed to watch as their horse is warmed-up by a tournament volunteer trainer. After that, the riders are given just four minutes to get familiar with their horse before entering to the arena.
“It is a really unique way of showing,” said Brown. “It’s a kind of test to see who is the best rider by [demonstrating the ability] to adapt to a new horse in a new situation the fastest.”
The goal of this type of showing is that the rider and horse must follow a set routine or pattern around the arena. Executing the pattern is critical, but the pair is also judged on how well they connect with one another, by showing fluidity in their movement.
With such little time to get familiar with the horse, Brown relies on what the horse already knows, instead of trying to train it to do something new. “Along with just riding for myself and trying to have fun,” said Brown.
The innate ability to use what the horse already knows is a skill that has led Brown to three NCEA All-American accolades in reining. The third coming after she went 11-4 in matches with six most outstanding player honors. Brown’s overall skill with horses carried over to horsemanship as well, where she earned two second-team All-American accolades. That made Brown the first Bulldog that earned five career All-American accolades in the program’s history.
“It’s been a great ride,” said Brown. “I’ve been able to accomplish a lot in my four years. Probably a lot more than I would have ever dreamed of.”
The ride for Brown started many years before she decided to compete for Fresno State. In fact, with Brown’s father in team roping and her mother in showing, it makes one wonder if she had equestrian abilities in her genes.
Brown was raised around the rodeo scene and has competed since she was 2 years old. She made the decision to start showing more often in 2008 when she was 11.
When Brown attended Strathmore High School from 2009 to 2013, another passion began to compete with showing horses. That passion was soccer.
Brown played three years for the Spartans and scored a career total of 26 goals. That was enough for Brown to earn a few soccer scholarships to schools on the east coast. But the chance to ride horses at the college level was too much to leave behind. And a good thing she did. The experience that she has had at Fresno State is unlike anything that Brown has ever experienced.
“This really made me into who I am,” said Brown. “Besides the horses, I’ve had to deal with 30 girls every year, and I was a captain this last year.”