By Sydnee Bowersox, social media editor
Before the serious issue of COVID-19, Melissa Shetler, horse trainer and owner of Circle M Training Center in Saegertown, was busy helping her clients (including me) practice and prepare for upcoming shows. Circle M competes through the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and Youth Equestrian Development Association (YEDA).
The global pandemic has had a major impact on the season because many of the shows have been canceled or postponed. “Traveling to horse shows is 50 percent of what we do,” Shetler said. “It is beneficial to stay home at times when young horses need more training, but being on the road and showing is a huge part of what we do.”
Shetler runs the Circle M Equestrian Team. ”I’ve been riding since before I could walk. My mom had horses and she got us into showing because she was never allowed or could afford to,” Shetler said. “It became a family hobby, and we were all able to spend more time together.”
For the past 18 years, Shetler has been a full-time trainer who enjoys helping others understand their horses and learn how to ride them more effectively. Her daughter, Violet Shetler has been riding and showing horses her entire life. At the AQHA Youth World Show in August of 2019, Violet was awarded Reserve Champion in the 13 and under Hunter Under Saddle (HUS) class with her horse, “Be All Righteous,” aka Jace.
“The virus has impacted the show season. I am still riding the same amount although most of the horse industry has been shut down,” Violet said. “I have been riding a lot at home because it’s one of the only things I can do.”
Melissa mentioned that having most of the season being canceled or postponed has not only affected the riders, but also the horses: “The horses still need exercise and some are learning new events. We are operating as normal in that respect,” Shelter said.
The Circle M barn has a variety of disciplines being taught by Melissa. “Our barn is primarily an all-around barn which means we show and ride a variety of events. Our events include western riding, hunter under saddle, hunt seat equitation, showmanship, horsemanship, trail, and western pleasure. These events are complex and require a large amount of training,” she said.
From a personal standpoint, I’ve been part of the Circle M team for one year, showing during the YEDA season. COVID-19 has dramatically affected the current YEDA season, as nationals has been postponed for months, and the shows leading up to nationals have also been canceled.
In a regular year, riders have to place in the top three in at least five shows to qualify for nationals. Now some riders may not have the opportunity to compete in five shows, and we’re not sure how that is going to be resolved.
Coronavirus has put everything on pause for the horse world; everything but practice. Riding has been a big part of my life since I was little. I have shown horses for five years, and every year I learn more and more. Melissa Shetler has taught me more than just how to be a better rider. Riding is a way of being your true self and doing what you love.
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Journalism Adviser, Saegertown Jr. Sr. High School