Wilbraham & Monson Academy's Lainey Gilmartin '22 faced a difficult decision a few weeks ago – attend the Middle School trip to Maine or compete at a world horseback riding competition.
The ultimate factor in her decision was her horse, Buddy.
"I wanted to go on the school trip to Acadia National Park but I decided I had a really good year of riding," Lainey explained. "It was my first year going and this might be my last year showing Buddy because he's getting a little old so I decided to go."
And Lainey didn't just go – she won.
Competing against riders from throughout the United States and Canada, Lainey and Buddy were twice decorated for their performances at the 2016 Morgan Grand National and World Championship Horse Show in Oklahoma Oct. 9-13.
"I was pretty nervous but when I got there it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be so I relaxed," Lainey said. "I thought because it was nationals people might be competitive or rude, but the people were pretty nice."
After winning three classes at the New England Horse Show, Lainey competed for four days in Oklahoma. She was named the Grand National Champion for Hunter Seat Equitation 11-year-olds, and the Reserve (second place) World Champion in Hunter Seat Equitation 10-11-year-olds.
"It was really nice," Lainey said. "I'm glad I went. People from all over the country and outside of the country went. It was such this big competition. It was my first time going, and on my first time going I got to wear roses. When you win a championship or get second place, they put roses around your horse.
"The first class I won, I didn't expect to win. I just felt really happy about my ride and that I rode my best. When I won, it was a shock to me. I was really happy."
Lainey, in her fifth year of competitive riding, advanced to the championship round in all four of her classes.
"In our first class I think we were both a little nervous. Once we got used to it we moved up. Buddy loves me and he takes good care of me. I'm lucky to have him as a horse."