Serena Aumick was in shock after learning she placed first in the Working Western Horse and Ponies category at the Pennsylvania State 4-H Horse Show.
At the Harrisburg show on Oct. 25, the 15-year-old Tunkhannock Area High School sophomore competed with her 8-year-old quarter horse, Smiley.
“I was just really shocked that I actually managed to get up there with all those high-competing horses,” Aumick said.
About six years ago, Aumick began riding horses for pleasure, then eventually got into ranch and reining.
“I wanted to step up and get more competitive with it,” she remembered. “I enjoy the competitive aspect of it and getting to have a bond with your horse.”
Aumick trains with Fox Hollow Equine in Mehoopany and is also a member of the Sunset Riders 4-H group.
“We’ve had our club in Wyoming County for over 10 years. We have 13 other riders in our club, most of which are western and we meet here at my barn,” said Danielle Foust of Sunset Riders and Fox Hollow Equine.
The group holds riding meetings in the summer, as well as educational meetings in the offseasons.
Five Sunset Riders students competed in the state show. To qualify for states, students competed in at the county and district levels, with the top contenders moving on.
“These are the top riders in the state,” Foust said.
At the state competition, Aumick had to ride a pattern and was judged on how well she and Smiley were able to perform the different maneuvers.
“Everybody has same pattern prior to the show,” Foust explained. “Everybody walks in to the arena with a score of 70 and a judge will plus or minus you on how well you perform these skills or these maneuvers in the pattern.”
Foust felt confident in Aumick, being that she had prepared well and put in a ton of effort, but horses can also be unpredictable in competition.
“We knew that horse performed really well at districts, but there are times that horse does not perform very well,” Foust said. “That’s the hard thing about showing horses, too. You have to hope that your horse does everything right. Even if you do everything right, your horse can make mistakes.”
Aumick joked that Smiley has a “split personality.”
“Sometimes she’s an angel, sometimes she’s a devil,” Aumick said. “She’s a mare to a T. She has a lot of try to her and she really wants to succeed.”
It was an exciting moment for Foust and mother Rachel Aumick in the audience when the winners were called.
“It was extremely exciting for all of us,” Foust said.
Aumick looked over to her friend and said, “did they really call me?”
“We haven’t had a state champion in our 4-H club for a long time, so it was a huge win for her and for Wyoming County,” Foust said.
To get there, it took “a lot of hours spent at the barn,” Aumick said. This includes taking lessons, as well as riding, grooming and bonding with her horse.
Outside of riding, Aumick is a member of the Future Farmers of America and was crowned Junior Fair Queen at the Wyoming County Community Fair last year.
In the future, she hopes to one day compete at worlds and also show horses at the breed level.
Her advice for other riders is to “always go for your goals and never give up on them.”