It’s a family affair for these young girls

Posted: December 27, 2013

The Winchester Star

These young horsewomen have been racking up the ribbons at local horse shows. They are (from left) Quinna Molden, 10, of Frederick County with her horse, Addie; her cousin Catherine Harmon, 7, of Clarke County with Ghost, and Quinna's sister Eddyn Molden, 7, with Blue Beach. The Moldens’ parents are Amy and Robbie Molden and Catherine's parents are Susan and Tim Harmon. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
Eddyn Molden, 7, guides her horse, Blue Beach, toward a jump during riding lesson in Clarke County.
Catherine Harmon, 7, of Clarke County, on her horse, Ghost, takes a jump during a riding lesson. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
Quinna Molden, 10, of Frederick County takes a jump on her horse, Addie, during a riding lesson.

Boyce — For three local cousins, being horse crazy is a family affair.

Sisters Eddyn Molden, 7, and Quinna Molden, 10, and their cousin, Catherine Harmon, 7, take lessons together at least three times a week. They compete together at regional horse shows and cheer each other on from the sidelines.

They love horses and like that they can share it with each other, said Susan Molden-Harmon, Catherine’s mom.

“When all three ride together, they all want to out do each other so it makes them better riders,” said Susan, who passed on her love of horses to her daughter.

The girls’ parents see their passion for horses as a clean and healthy upbringing, Susan said.

The girls’ moms are the most involved in their riding — the sisters’ mom, Amy Molden of Middletown, is the “quintessential show mom” and Susan said she also competes. Their husbands, Robbie Molden and Timothy Harmon, respectively, help unload at shows, bring doughnuts and drinks, stay for a while, and head off.

“In our family, it’s a female pastime,” Susan said.

A third Molden sister, Maelyn, 8, is an avid gymnast, and Eddyn and Quinna are just as supportive of her as she is of them, Amy said.

The three riders spend a great deal of time together in the ring even though they compete in different divisions, Amy said. Eddyn and Catherine show in pre-short stirrup equitation and Quinna competes in short stirrup and pony hunters.

“It is not about competing or winning,” she said. “It is about the connection and working hard.”

But that doesn’t mean the girls don’t work hard and take it seriously, Susan said. They compete in regional shows throughout the year, participating in circuits such as the Sandstone Farm series.

This past season, which ended in October, the series’ points in the Sandstone circuit were added up and they had a good showing, she said. Catherine was year-end reserve champion in pre-short stirrup equitation; Eddyn was champion in the same category plus reserve champion in pony pleasure, and Quinna was reserve champion in short stirrup equitation.

Other series they compete in are put on by Hunt Club Farms in Berryville, Foxrock Stables in Purcellville, and Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, Susan said.

On a recent chilly evening, the girls worked with their trainer, Derek Wolfe of Stephens City, at Susan’s farm in Boyce. Catherine is on her horse, Ghost, while Eddyn rides Beachy and Quinna is on Addie.

Derek said the girls are “super focused” and can be hard on themselves. Toward the end of the lesson, they will switch mounts, a practice that is both entertaining for them and a learning experience in working a horse they are not familiar with riding.

“I always try to instill structure but keep it fun,” he said. “I let them know at a horse show that even if you didn’t win or get a ribbon you learned something and there is always room for improvement.”

Quinna has been riding solo the longest at four years, and everyone agrees she is the most passionate about horses of the group. She is in the barn on her family’s farm every morning by 6 a.m. to take care of the horses and back in the evening.

She rides five to six times a week and does it with a smile. Even at her young age, Quinna shows she understands the importance of practice and hard work.

“I like having to give all my time to it,” she said. “Lots of kids would like to have what I have, so I think I should be really appreciative of it.”

Although she has been riding longer than her sister and cousin, Quinna is quick to praise their skills and point out there are some things they do better.

Her favorite part of riding is jumping and “feeling the horse come up to me over the jump.”

Eddyn said she and Beachy have come a long way since she got the horse last Christmas. For her, riding is all about the connection she has with her horse. “If you didn’t have an animal to bond with you would probably be really lost.”

The little girl likes competing and takes pride in the awards she has won, but her focus is more on the feeling she gets from riding and seeing friends she has made at competitions. She has taken to heart the message the adults in her life have taught her — “It’s not about winning, it’s about having fun.”

But the girls do concentrate when it comes to competing and want to do well. Many of the awards and ribbons Catherine has earned are proudly displayed in her bedroom and in the stable.

“It feels great. You feel special because you got it,” she said.

Sometimes the girls have competitions of their own, only then, they leave the horses out of the loop, Catherine said. “We go down for fun and pretend like we are horses and jump. My mom is the judge.”

Riding is a passion Catherine likes sharing with her mom, a lifelong horse enthusiast who has been riding since she was 7 and showing more than 20 years.

Catherine watches her mom to learn new skills, but she also likes the down time. “Sometimes when no one is here, we get to spend time and just ride and chill out.”

Derek and Susan often compete together at the regional shows the girls do and some larger ones along the East Coast. Her last big win was as champion amateur rider at Sandstone and his was as champion benefit hunter and reserve champion in working hunters.

The challenge and the accomplishment of riding and “working as a team with a large animal” is amazing, Susan said, and she is glad her daughter inherited her passion for it.

Just like her mother before her, Susan said that if her daughter and nieces are in the barn, they are out of the malls and off the streets. “I think it’s a good place to be for young girls.”

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com