By Carole Robinson, Senior Staff Writer
Photo: Carole Robinson
Emma Lemke and Lakeview Laddie are a winning team and best friends.
Photo by Carole Robinson.
Ribbons and photographs line the walls of the Lemke barn in rural Southwest Williamson County, showing off the pride and dedication of a family.
Franklin High freshman Emma Lemke is most proud of the ribbon and trophy she recently brought home – the United States Equestrian Federation’s coveted Horse of the Year award. The award is special because she won it on an 8-year-old Welsh pony she trained and only one person and horse in the entire country receives it.
In 2012 Emma and her horse, Lakeview Laddie, also took home the National Grand Champion Green Pony Hunter award, the National Champion Green Pony Hunter – Medium award, the Virginia Pony Breeders National Performance Award and several others. Since she began taking Laddie to shows two years ago, the duo has brought home numerous prestigious ribbons and trophies, but neither have let all that go to their head. Emma still spends hours in the barn cleaning stalls and caring for the family’s small herd, and in the field working and training Laddie. And Laddie is still the curious, loving, easy-going pony he has always been.
“I just love doing it,” the 14 year old said. “[Horses] make me happy. They’re easy to deal with – in some aspects. They are my passion.”
From the time she was very little, like many girls, Emma loved horses. But her love went further than My Little Ponies, Black Beauty and horse statues cluttering a playroom. Emma loved the real thing – the four-legged animals she watched running in the fields behind her rural Williamson County home and came back to the fence to have their muzzles scratched.
Like her mother, Elizabeth, who has also loved horses since she was a young girl, the love encompasses more than the animal, it’s working with and caring for them. Emma truly enjoys spending time with the ponies on their farm.
Elizabeth’s fondness for horses – especially the Welsh Pony – led her to become a lawyer. Her plan was to buy a farm, own several horses and do much of her work from home – so she could enjoy the farm. With her husband, David, Elizabeth accomplished her dream and passed her love of equus caballus down to her children, but it was Emma who inherited the passion.
As a very little girl, “Emma was always at the fence watching the horses,” Elizabeth said. “We recognized immediately she had the passion, the aptitude, the talent and a good work ethic.”
Emma Lemke on Lakeview Laddie.
By the age of three, Emma was in the barn and at shows right next to Elizabeth and older sister Charlotte “helping” with bathing and clipping and ringside cheering for them.
When she was five, Emma’s natural balance and seat on the horse was so well developed Elizabeth began entering her in youth events at horse shows sister Carrie entered.
During that time, Emma tried gymnastics for a couple years, but chose to focus her energies on horses and by eight, she was on the circuit entering well-known Hunter Jumper shows in places like Germantown and Washington, D.C.
“In the beginning, for every successful show there were three not so successful,” Elizabeth said.
Those first few years were rough, Emma agreed.
“But it was still fun and when it got better, the success is fun,” she said. “When I look back at who I was when I first went to pony finals and now, I am so much better. Every pony I have ridden has contributed to where I am now. Some were difficult, some were easy – they all challenged.”
Emma’s experiences on five different family-owned ponies and several she rode for friends made her development “a perfect storm,” Elizabeth said.
“Two years ago I wouldn’t have gotten this far, but because of what I did, I could do it,” Emma said.
The Lemkes purchased Laddie as a yearling. Right off the bat he stood out. He wasn’t afraid to be alone in the pasture. He was calm, sweet and ever willing to please. Welsh Ponies are a steady breed, Elizabeth explained. They come in many sizes and have a sweet temperament. They can drive a cart and jump. And they are nice riding horses.
“A lot of them are designed to be ridden by kids,” she said.
Emma began his formal training the year he celebrated his sixth birthday. Welsh ponies can’t be registered, and can’t be entered in sanctioned Welsh pony shows until they are 6 because they don’t reach their full size until then, Elizabeth said.
“He is one pony who really wants to do the right thing,” Elizabeth said. “You just have to tell him what you want him to do.”
With guidance from local trainers Macy Wesson and Kelly Mullen, Emma and Laddie learned together.
Showing isn’t all about winning, although winning is nice, “It’s about memories, friends and being with people who have common experiences,” Emma said. “The work is 50-50 ground and saddle. It’s pulling manes, clipping ears, cleaning stalls, picking feet, feeding and understanding personalities and temperaments.
“Laddie is really sweet – like a dog he’s always with you – in your face but not obnoxious. He makes [all the work] fun. If a horse could wag his tail, he would be wagging away.”
Sisters Carrie, a senior at Franklin High and Charlotte, a seventh grader at Battle Ground Academy, enjoy the horses, but Emma loves every aspect – from cleaning stalls, combing manes and picking feet to hours in the saddle and the dozens of Hunter Jump competitions that take her across the country and make weekends less relaxing.
Posted on: 3/21/2013