Clarke horse owner honored as the best

Posted: January 6, 2014

The Winchester Star

Sharon Weber (left) was named Owner of the Year for 2013 by the Professional Riders Organization for her support of the sport of three-day eventing. Weber is flanked by her horse Wundermaske, which trainer/rider Sharon White (right) rides at competions.

BOYCE — A Clarke County resident has been named the top owner of a competitive three-day event horse for 2013 by the Professional Riders Organization (PRO).

Sharon Weber of Browntown Road recently received a Waterford Crystal trophy for her support of the sport of eventing, one of the equestrian disciplines of the Olympic Games.

Weber was presented the award by the organization at the Hyatt Regency in Cincinnati, Ohio, last month during the United States Equestrian Association’s annual convention.

PRO also will donate $5,000 in prize money to any PRO Tour Series event of Weber’s choice, according to Samantha Lendl, executive director of PRO.

Eventing, said Lendl, is the “triathlon of horse sports.”

Riders and their mounts compete in three divisions.

First comes dressage, which Lendl describes as like figure skating, where the horse and rider complete a series of movements in a confined space.

Next is the cross country segment — the “meat and potatoes” of the sport, according to Lendl — where each horse and rider team jumps a series of obstacles while galloping across undulating terrain.

The final element is show jumping, done over fences in a ring.

The three types of performance test “the skill, horsemanship and bravery of horse and rider,” Lendl said.

Weber, a retired teacher, said she never rode a horse as a child. She was introduced to horses after her daughter Emily took a trail ride when she was just 9 years old and was hooked.

The family bought a horse and Emily began lessons, joined Pony Club and continued to compete, moving up to “international” levels.

When Emily went off to college and moved on to a job and marriage, Weber said she told Emily’s riding coach, Sharon White, how much she was going to miss going to the three-day events in which her daughter had competed.

White asked, “Why don’t you become an owner?”

“I never thought of that,” Weber responded.

She bought an eventing horse, called Willpower, with White as rider and trainer.

White said Weber has supported her and the sport for many years.

“There’s nothing more influential on a rider’s career than the quiet confidence of someone believing in you, always being there no matter what, and never doubting you,” White told PRO, as she nominated Weber for the Owner of the Year honor.

“Sheri stands for the backbone of our sport, the grassroots love of eventing, the willingness to put whatever you’ve got into the love of the horse, the rider and the eventing community. This influences the sport of eventing more than anything else and is what makes our sport so different and so special.”

“We’ve had some heartbreak,” said Weber, noting she had lost one of her competition horses to a freak accident.

But she’s had some amazing highs too, when her horses have turned in big performances at the national level against top competition.

Her current horse, Wundermaske, a 10-year-old Hanoverian-Thoroughbred cross, was named to the High Performance National Training List by the U.S. Equestrian Federation. Horses on the list are ones the USEF’s Selection Committee believes “have the potential to be competitive anywhere in the world.”

Lendl said the PRO award was donated by Sara Kozumplik Murphy five ears ago. It is named for one of her upper level horses, As You Like It.

It was meant to honor an owner who has had a large impact on a rider’s career and made exceptional contributions to the sport, Lendl said.

Kozumplik Murphy, who has known Weber since her “Pony Club mom” days, said she is “the epitome of what the eventing story can be — from Pony Club beginnings to international owner. This is what makes her stand out and why she deserves the As You Like It Owner’s Award.”

Weber has come a long way from the woman who knew nothing about horses 25 years ago.

From someone who had never ridden a horse, she said she’s moved up to not only owning Olympic-caliber equestrian competitors but has even taken lessons and learned to ride herself.

In fact, she said, her husband has joined her in trail riding.

Weber noted that Wundermaske, known around the barn as Patch, is a “really good horse,” and she’s looking forward to how well he can do with White in the spring.

They have qualified to compete at the 2014 Rolex three-day event in Kentucky in April, where future Olympic equestrian stars can often be seen.

— Contact Val Van Meter at vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com