FAIRMONT - All little girls like horses - it is a rite of passage. But most haven't been showing them since they were 6 months old.
Not even old enough to sit up on her own, Makayla Hall entered her first competition at the Martin County Fair held in her saddle by her parents as the horse was led around the arena.
Makayla, now 9 years old and still needing a boost to get up on a horse, is ranked one of the top five riders in her age bracket in the nation for Ponies of America.
HORSE?CHAMPION?— 9-year-old Makayla Hall prepares to lead Crystal out of her pasture. Makayla and Crystal won the 12-and-under category at this week’s horse khana show at the Martin County Fair.
When she is in the saddle, she concentrates on going slow, sitting up straight and keeping her elbows back.
But when not in the saddle, she is like any other pre-teen girl, loving the way the sparkles on her shirt reflect the sunlight on her horse's side.
Makayla won the horse and pony khanas at the fair this week, and is off to competition in Wisconsin this weekend.
She has shown in Nebraska, Missouri, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Iowa and North Dakota in addition to Minnesota.
"It's travel, travel, travel," she said.
A fourth-grader at Granada-Huntley-East Chain, Makayla shows throughout the summer into October, missing school when necessary to make it to competition.
Trophies, ribbons and prizes line shelves and walls in her home, her most recent prize being a saddle won as High Point Overall winner at the POA International competition in St. Louis.
Come winter, Makayla continues her daily horse practice with her mother Jackie serving as her coach.
"The horses get one day off after competition," Jackie said.
Makayla takes precautions if the weather is bad, like only riding in high snow to avoid slipping on ice with the horses.
She likes to compete in game competitions with the horses best - events in which the rider has to take the horse through a variety of obstacles as fast as possible.
"I love those," she said, her face lighting up as she described going fast on top of a horse.
She has two horses she takes to competition, Crystal, a quarterhorse, and Gracie, a Pony of America horse. She prefers Crystal, whom she rode at the fair this week, but for POA competitions she needs to ride a POA horse, so Gracie is the choice.
Jackie still shows horses herself, and breaks and sells horses on her farm.
At school, Makayla's favorite subject is math, although she likes art too, and she plays basketball when she isn't riding her horses.
She expects to ride in competition for as long as she can, but her career goal is to be a veterinary technician.