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Universities know where to get their riders trained

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By Scotty McDaniel

Shelby County may be known as the "Saddlebred Capital of the World," but three visiting Oregon State University students arrived in Shelby on Friday for another breed - quarter horses.

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And they knew just the place to go.

Rea Quarter Horses on Locust Lane provided three members of OSU's equestrian team with the horses and a place to loosen up for the 2009 Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Western Semifinals, which took place Saturday at Morehead State University.

Barbara Rea, owner of Rea Quarter Horses, said her son Rusty trains people of all ages and skill levels on quarter horses, but there are still a lot of people who want to ride horses and don't know their options in the county.

"The young people in the county need to know what options are available," Barbara said. "If you have had a love for horses, yet your family can't afford them, you can look at the many programs in Kentucky. There are other styles of riding."

The Rea family trains and shows primarily quarter horses but also breaks thoroughbreds for the track, foals mares, and shows horses all over the country, but they spend most of their time giving lessons to people ages 7 to 70 - "pretty much everyone," Rusty Rea said.

So, when it comes to being better riders, it isn't surprising that some prominent universities are fully aware of their options.

Rusty Rea usually is helping to train the University of Louisville Equestrian team.

Then recently he was recommended by the Kentucky Quarter Horse Association to the Beavers of OSU to help them get ready for another national competition. They finished third last year.

They normally practice at the OSU Horse Center in Oregon, but with their busy travel schedules, it was important that the riders find a place to get on horses before competition time.

"It's something a lot of people don't think about," OSU Assistant Coach Carrie Kolstad said. "We travel a lot, and the last time they [team members] were on a horse was a couple days ago.

"Riding here lets us get advice from the outside, and it's a good test for them to get on a new horse."

This is especially true when you understand that the competition requires riders to draw random horses and steadily guide that horse through a specific pattern given that same day.

Judges critique a rider's position and his or her control of the horse - two things both Kolstad and Rea were watching for Friday.

"You all have to motivate my horses to do their jobs, and they'll do it," Rusty Rea told the team when the horses weren't reacting.

Rea, who said he rode his first horse as a baby and was bucked off his first horse at 4, went to college on equine grants-in-aid and said the opportunity of being on and around horses is invaluable.

"I think it's a good thing for a kid to learn how to ride and to take care of a horse," he said. "It takes a lot more work than taking care of a dog, cat or fish. And it keeps kids out of trouble - teaches them morals and ethics."

As it did with Rea, this experience can also lead to help with college tuition --- from the NCAA program, from most breed associations and organizations such as the Kentucky Horse Council and the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), to name a few.

Rea's hard work must have paid off, because the team from Oregon State certainly benefited from its day with him.

The Beavers won the regional at Morehead and earned a trip to the IHSAA national championship next month in Murfreesboro, Tenn.