California Riding Magazine • January, 2009

Horse People:
Courtney Welch

Young rider makes her mark on the industry.

by Rebecca Sparenberg

The pale pink walls of Courtney Welch’s bedroom are barely discernible between the blue, red and tri-color champion ribbons adorning them. It’s hard to believe these visible testaments to Courtney’s show ring success are only from the 2006 and 2007 season. Her championship ribbons from the 2008 Greater San Diego Hunter Jumper Association (GSDHJA) Championship Show as well as the perpetual trophy Courtney won as the 2007 GSDHJA Green Medal Champion are currently holding court in the Welch’s dining room.

But anyone who spends time chatting with the 10-year-old honor student will quickly realize that her accomplishments are due to more than just natural talent; it is an elusive combination of talent, enthusiasm and determination that is rapidly making Courtney a force to be reckoned with in young rider classes across Southern California.

In 2008 alone Courtney racked up an impressive record. She started the season by competing for the first time at HITS Thermal during week VI. Courtney was consistently in the ribbons and earned a reserve champion in the WIHS Pony Medal class. Even the burly Santa Ana winds, which toppled jumps and tore down temporary stalls, didn’t faze the young rider. She impressed her trainer, Laura Norman, barn buddies and peers with her focus and ability to remain in the “zone.” But Courtney was just excited to be there. “I had a lot of fun, but I don’t think we are going back this year. This year I am trying to qualify for the (national) Pony Finals.”

Following her 2007 win of the GSDHJA Green Medal class, Courtney made her debut in the GSDHJA Mini Medal and took home the reserve champion ribbon. At the GSDHJA Championship Show in Del Mar she won the Pony Hunter Classic, the Novice Equitation Over Fences 17 and Under class and was champion of the Low Children’s Hunter Classic 12 & Under on Wish Me Luck, a.k.a. “Charming.” She was also reserve champion in Pre-Children’s Hunter Pony on Lucky Gold, a.k.a. “Peanut Butter,” and finished second in the Green Rider Hunter 12 and Under Classic and in the Novice Equitation Flat 11 & Under class.

In the GSDHJA year-end awards, she won the Green Rider Hunters 12 and Under division, was champion on Charming in the Low Children’s Hunters 12 and Under and in the Pony Hunter division. Peanut Butter was unfortunately out for most of the year with an injury, but still managed to rank just out of the top 10 in several divisions.

Bright Horizons

The young rider’s ultimate goal is not only to qualify for nationals, but to make the big leap from Junior Hunters to Jumpers. Courtney trains four times a week with Laura at Lucky Kid Farm in San Diego County’s Jamul. “Courtney is very dedicated,” says Laura with obvious affection. Courtney has been training with Laura since she was 6 years old: one of the youngest beginners Laura had ever accepted into her program. “She works hard every ride. But there is more to it than that, she is also an exceptional child. A riding stable should be about more than developing great riders, we should also help them develop skills that will make them great contributors to our communities. A lot of that also has to do with the parents. I’m very lucky to have a barn full of wonderful students that are backed by wonderful parents like Courtney’s.”

Courtney’s parents are her biggest fans and supporters. Both Courtney’s mother, Linda, and her older brother, JB, ride and the Welches keep three trail horses at their house in Jamul. On the days she’s not busy training with her two show ponies Courtney can be found on the trail with her family and friends.

Courtney Welch & Lucky Gold
Photo: Osteen

In fact Courtney’s new show pony, Lovely, has a starring role on her brothers, JB and Josh’s, recently syndicated TV show, The Industry. The show revolves around her brothers’ first venture into the entertainment business and the launch of their record label, Junior Records. Fourteen-year-old Josh has some wild ideas about how to make it in the industry, and JB and Lovely are in for quite a ride.

After JB and Josh’s show received syndication, they began developing a show about Courtney and life as an up-and-coming junior rider. The show would appeal to young riders across the nation because the heart of Courtney’s charm is actually very simple: she loves the horses. What makes her exceptional is her ability to carry that love of her horse and riding into all aspects of her life; she shows the same enthusiasm for a riding lesson or trail ride as she does for jumping a show round.

Ask her at any given time where she would like to be and Courtney’s answer will always be the same: “Riding!”