By Heather Cass, Publications Manager at Penn State Behrend
While many college students spend their weekends working or catching up on sleep, one Penn State Behrend Marketing major spends her free time in a saddle, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Faith Wheeler, a first-year student from Edinboro, Pennsylvania, has been riding horses since she was in preschool. She began participating in 4-H horse shows when she was ten years old.
“I started out showing a little pony that I got for Christmas,” Wheeler said. “I still have him!”
It was Ziggy, however, Wheeler’s faithful Quarter Horse, on which she rode to third place in Pennsylvania in the Ranch Horse Pleasure division of 4-H equestrian competition last month. The two also placed fifth in the state in Reining.
The Behrend Blog recently chatted with Wheeler to find out more about her equestrian hobby and accomplishments.
What equestrian events do you compete in?
For the most part, I compete in reining and ranch riding. Reining is a pattern class that consists of large fast circles, small slow circles, spinning, and sliding stops. Ranch riding is a class that also has a pattern. You do multiple things including loping, trotting fast, slow riding, spinning, and backing up. In this class, you want to have a western outfit and ride like you’re out west working on a ranch.
What type of horse is Ziggy?
Ziggy is his barn name. His registered name is Ima Dream Chex. He is an 8-year-old registered Quarter Horse. His grandfather is the famous Hollywood Dunit.
Horses are said to have distinct personalities. What is Ziggy’s personality like?
Horses absolutely have personalities. Not everyone can see them, but when you have a bond between you and your horse, you can definitely see it. Ziggy has great personality. He is very loyal toward me and willing to do things that he is not 100 percent sure about. I believe he puts in just as much effort as I do and that’s why we compete so well together.
How do you train while you’re a student at Behrend?
I live on campus but go home on weekends. My weekends are devoted to my family and horses. I practice on Saturdays and Sundays for about two hours each day. The shows I compete in are usually on weekends, so it doesn’t interfere with classes.
What does it mean to have gone to 4-H state competition?
States is the largest Pennsylvania 4-H horse show. You have to qualify by placing in the top three in your class at the district show. Ziggy and I placed in September at the Crawford County fairgrounds.
What does it take to do well in this sport?
It takes commitment, a lot of hard work, and dedication to your horse. It takes both horse and rider competing as one. The horse needs to enjoy what they are doing. If they don’t like it, it would be a constant battle and that would be no fun for the horse or rider.
What would people be surprised to know about your sport?
The level of discipline, exercise, and practice required. The rider is an athlete! Riding requires strength in the arms, legs, and core. Riders also have to have patience and courage to build a working relationship with a 1,200-pound animal. Horses have good and bad days and riders must learn to adapt and figure out what works on any given day.
What are your career goals?
I’d like to work in marketing for a national, brand-name company in the horse/western industry.