For Paige Williams, it all started because she wanted to "drive" at the age of 4.
Taking hold of the reins, the 16-year-old rode her movie-based program to the winners circle at the 2005 Georgia Horse Fair Youth Versatility Competition in Perry earlier this year. She was nominated by the Georgia 4-H council for the competition.
"It was great winning because I won a lot of stuff - horse stuff," she said. "It was like a Mary Poppins bag - he kept pulling things out of the bag to show what I won. There even was a $300 gift certificate to a tack shop.
"I've been raised around horses," Paige said. "My mother used to take me riding when I was little. When I was about 4, I wanted to 'drive.'
"I've been riding ever since."
Horse competitions are different from other sports, the Cross Creek High School student said.
"In other sports you are part of a team and have to communicate with the people," she said. "(To me) it's easier to communicate with animals - it's great with animals - it's a feeling of teamwork."
The competition consisted of four events: showmanship, where contestants perform a theme routine dressed in costume; barrel racing; and Western horsemanship, where riders are judged on position and the horse's ability to make the maneuvers.
English equitation, the final part of the competition, is the same as the Western horsemanship except for the style and tack used. For example, in Western riding the rider uses one hand to control the horse, and in English riding two hands are required.
"I like this style competition because you can put in more of your personality," she said. Along with required movements, contestants are judged on the speed of the tack change, crowd appeal and their creativity.
"It took a few days (to teach Patch My Britches the routine)," Paige said of training her horse. Part of the routine was taken from the movie Footloose "There's one part where he does dance steps with his front legs crossing over each other. I worked with him about 20 minutes a day for a week. It took a few treats."
The competitions are a family affair. Donna, her mom, creates her costumes with assistance from Paige's grandmother, Evelyn Bird, of Portal, Ga. Her brother, Adam, 20, shoes her horse, assists with tack changes during competition and boosts her onto Patch when she rides bareback or without stirrups.
When not riding, the A honor roll student said, she studies with aspirations of becoming a pharmacist. Paige said she likes "science, math, lunch and PE - and ceramics is fun."
As for her career choice?
"I need to earn a paycheck to keep horses," she said.
Reach Ed Scott at (706) 823-3704 or firstname.lastname@example.org.