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Young W.Va. equestrian takes victory trot at worlds

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sofia Rashid recently joined an elite club. The young equestrian earned the title of 9-year-old walk and trot equitation world champion in August at the World Championship Horse Show in Louisville.

Sofia, who turned 10 since the competition, won riding her horse Sweetie. She took the honor in stride.

"I thought I did pretty good, and would at least ribbon. I didn't believe it at first," she said.

In equitation competition, riders maintain strict control of their bodies and the horse they ride. They're judged on body control and control of horse, correct form and poise and attire. Riders wear a regimented costume of special pants, shirt, tie, vest, jacket, gloves and hat. Sofia picked the fabric for her green habit trimmed in peach from a tiny swatch, said her mother, Stacy Rashid.

Sofia, of South Charleston, has been riding and training at Meadow Dream Farm, in Nitro, since she was 4 years old, and began to take "serious" lessons when she was 5. She's the first world champion to come from Meadow Dream Farm, owned by Georgia and Jimmy Morrison.

"This is very special for us. She's our first world champion, and she started with us and hasn't trained anywhere else. To have someone from this little barn in West Virginia win a division is something," said Georgia Morrison.

Riders qualify to compete in the annual world championship competition by winning at other shows throughout the year. Sofia typically competes in about 16 shows a year, eight in Winfield and others in Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.

The competition was the first time she'd competed at the Equitation level after graduating from the Academy division in January, when she also acquired and began training with Sweetie.

Morrison and her staff work with Sofia, a fifth-grader at Sacred Heart Grade School, two or three times a week. Successful riders must balance the need to strictly control both their body carriage and the horse's movements. In training, Sofia learned to control her horse without using her hands and at others with her hands only and her feet out of the stirrups.

Morrison knew Sofia had the stuff for the big-time competition ring and tried to instill confidence, but also keep the unflappable little girl humble.

"The other trainers have told me that she had a good shot and to keep doing what we were doing," Morrison said.

"She's mature for her age as a rider. She has braveness and an ability usually seen in older riders to handle more difficult horses," she said.

Tall for her age, Sofia's lean frame and long arms make her a more graceful rider. "She's judged on the control she has of her body -- steady arms, feet and legs." Her carriage must remain as erect as possible as she controls the bounce in her saddle as the mare trots around the ring.

Although the horse is not judged in the equitation class, judges scrutinize the rider's ability to control the horse and have it perform a regimen of gaits (walks and trots). Sweetie, a 16-year-old mare, competed in a different division until five months ago, so Sofia had to prevent her from retreating into her more familiar paces.

"It was a transition for the horse as well," Morrison said in reference to Sofia's inexperience in equitation competition.

"We work all year for Louisville. This is the Super Bowl of everything. Riders can do well all year, qualify and not even place. Sofia had something special. Everything clicked," Morrison said.

Reach Julie Robinson at julier@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.


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