Taking the Reins
Senior Amy Balkins Holds National Titles in Horsemanship
By: Camlynne Waring
It’s every girls dream: to have her very own pony. For Amy Balkins, a senior health promotion major at Walla Walla University, that dream became a reality. When she was four years old, Balkins received her first pony.
“That’s when I fell in love with horses,” said Balkins. At age seven, she got a show horse and started showing at the regional level two years later. By the time she was 10, Balkins had won her first regional title, “Regional Showmanship Reserve Champion,” or second place in showmanship.
Balkins now has 14 national titles to her name, including two national championships, none of which would have been possible without her hard work and the support of her parents. During the school year, Balkins drove twice a week from her home in Corvallis, Ore., to Newberg, Ore., over an hour drive, to practice for several hours with her trainer, where her horse boarded November through August. During the show season and at the shows, Balkins rode multiple times a day.
Preparing for competition was another time commitment. Before entering the arena, Balkins had to make sure that she and her horse looked flawless. Western-style events required her to wear pants with chaps, gloves, and a cowboy hat. For English-style events, she’d shed her chaps for jodhpurs, don a collared shirt and riding coat, and a helmet.
Balkins won her two national championships with Love Is Bleu, an Arabian mare she showed in western events. To perfect her horse’s look, Balkins clipped Love’s body hair and shaved her muzzle. Balkins polished the mare’s shoes and hoofs, and applied some grease on the muzzle to make it shiny. The process of getting herself and her horse ready took two to three hours.
Balkins competed in six categories of horse showing competition: hunter pleasure, hunt seat equitation, horsemanship, reining seat equitation, showmanship, and trail.
“Half of the events I competed in are on how the horse can compete and the other half are on presentation, for example having the horse follow directions while I sat perfectly still and didn’t appear to be giving any directions,” said Balkins.
“There’s nothing more exciting than getting on a horse and having them understand what I want them to do.”
Though Balkins has been awarded scholarships, trophies, and competitive gear, the best reward to her was the sense of accomplishment she felt after a win. “Knowing that I had put my heart and soul into it was the most important thing to me,” she said.
Balkins sold her horse before she came to Walla Walla University. Now, she only shows horses occasionally for a friend. She has had to trade hours of practice with her horse for hours with her nose in her books. Balkins is preparing for possible careers in healthcare administration, fitness management, or health and wellness marketing.
Balkins would likely agree that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Horses have played a big role in her life, and she hopes that she can own a horse again in the future.
Reserve National Champion in Trail
Reserve National Champion in Reining Seat Equitation
Top 10 in showmanship
Top 10 in horsemanship
Top 10 in Trail (another category)
U.S. National Championship in Trail
U.S. National Championship in Horsemanship
Top Ten in Reigning seat equitation
Top 10 in Reining Seat Equitation
Top 10 in Horsemanship
Scottsdale Championship in Horsemanship
Scottsdale Top 10 in Hunt Seat Equitation
Scottsdale Top 10 Hunter Pleasure
Canadian National Reserve Champion in Horsemanship