Therapeutic riding shifts into passion for Beaver Creek teen
If 13-year-old Ethan Braucht wrote an essay, “How I spent my 2018 summer vacation,” it would be about a horse named Pistol and his travels to a foreign country.
Braucht competed in the 2018 Canadian National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show Aug. 12-18 in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.
His riding earned him recognition in the top 10 of his class along with a ribbon and a plaque for his effort.
“Like most things, I think it is the journey getting there that is the cool part,” said Ethan’s mom Sonja Braucht.
Ethan’s journey began six years ago at age 7 when Sonja and her husband, Jason, searched for ways to channel their son’s hyperactivity.
The Brauchts’ research led them to try therapeutic horseback riding as a way to channel Ethan’s high energy in a more positive direction.
“I was a very, very hyper kid,” Ethan admitted. “It was about controlling my ability to be crazy versus calm and it definitely helped.”
For the next four years contact with horses became a part of Ethan’s weekly routine as he learned how to ride and channel his energy.
In return, Ethan learned a lot about horses.
“They don’t care who you are, what you look like or what you sound like,” he said. “They love you, they respect if you love and respect them,” he said.
On their backs, Ethan found he could channel his energy into the horse and in return the animal responded.
“You can get a horse to trot just by raising your internal energy,” he said. “Hyped up to trot. They feel it inside of you.”
Ethan honed his balance and ,energy in a western saddle and then his family purchased a horse named Bella at Glory Bound Arabians in Brandon, South Dakota, where Ethan learned to participate in riding events at local horse shows.
Fellow riding students talked about showing at the Canadian Nationals, and Ethan said he thought attending the show outside the United States would be fun.
“It kind of started off as a dream originally when I got my first horse from the barn,” Ethan said. “But then it worked out this year. It turned into my biggest passion ever.”
The change came when the Brauchts were able to lease an Arabian-Standardbred cross named GV Hot Asa Pistol or “Pistol” for short. The 10-year-old gelding had the show experience to help Ethan in his aspirations to go to Canada.
The Brauchts leased Pinto from owner Susan Maier earlier this spring.
Ethan and Pistol faced three hurdles in their attempt to qualify for the nationals.
The first hurdle was for Ethan to learn the English style of riding, using a smaller saddle and moving the horse faster. In the process, he found the style better suits his personality.
“To me, western is too slow,” he said. “I like to do things kind of fast. It is more fun in my opinion.”
The second hurdle involved developing a bond in a matter of months with his new mount.
“Once you get to ride him, you pass a test at a certain point,” Ethan said.
“Once you pass their test and they understand you, they know they can respect and trust you. That’s when they start to ease up and start syncing to each other when ridden.”
Depending on the week, Ethan would spend up to five days in the saddle in preparation for a show.
The time was necessary to overcome that last hurdle: To garner enough points in order to enter classes at the Nationals.
For each class, a horse and rider must accumulate 15 points and place in the top five at a regional qualifying show.
The Brauchts traveled to Winona, Sioux Falls and St. Paul, which included a return trip to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for the regional show.
By the end of the regional show in July, Ethan and Pistol qualified for one class at nationals in the 13 and younger hunter pleasure class.
Traveling with Ethan to Canada were six other riders and their families from Glory Bound Arabians.
“The barn was very much like a team,” Ethan said.
As team members, everyone cared for, exercised and prepared their horses for their respective classes. Ethan’s one and only class was scheduled for Day 3 of the six-day show.
Adding to the pressure was that each of the other riders had already earned Top 10 finishes.
“I was nervous until I got on my horse because that’s how I am,” Ethan said. “I am someone who gets nervy up until the event but once it’s started I am totally fine.”
Three judges watched Ethan and Pistol and the other dozen riders in the class and placed Ethan and Pistol eighth.
Ethan credits his teammates and Pistol for his Top 10 finish.
“They told me to calm down, bring his (Pistol’s) head down and sit back,” he said.
In a pleasure class, judges are focused on the horse’s behavior and movement.
“It’s 80 percent the horse and 20 percent the rider,” Ethan said. “You have to know how to get the horse to look good so that is almost all the rider.”
The Brauchts are anticipating Ethan’s return to the 2019 Canadian Nationals.
“I have a feeling I will be better than I was this year,” Ethan said. “It seems each show I improved quite a bit. If it keeps going at that rate, I should be pretty darn good.”