ENCINITAS — Thirteen-year-old Lizzy Brennecke defied the odds by securing first place in the 18 and under category at the Junior National Reining competition last week.The event was part of Western Week at the 67th annual Del Mar National Horse Show from April 19 to April 22.
Lizzy faced two major obstacles: She only began competing in reining a year ago, and won on a horse, Listo, she had worked with for barely a month.
Reining is one of the fastest growing equestrian sports in the nation, requiring horses to have the ability to chase cattle by changing directions with ease, and stopping and reacting quickly to the movement of a cow. Horses are judged on a series of maneuvers such as spinning, rollbacks, circles with change of speed and direction, and sliding stops — which are a thrill for spectators.
After deciding to enter the field of competitive horseback riding, Lizzy said she chose reining because it was unique.
“Not too many people know about reining,” she said. “I like to run fast, do sliding stops — cowgirl stuff. It’s fun and never boring.”
Although Lizzy intended to enter the competition with her horse Checkers, it became apparent the he lacked what it took to win. A month ago, an opportunity presented itself to train with Listo, a horse whose skill was highly developed. Listo is Spanish for “smart” and “clever.”
In preparation for the Del Mar Horse Show, Lizzy and her mother, Rhonda Brennecke, drove from the coast to Ramona three times a week to work with Listo and trainer Roslyn Proffer. For Lizzy, it’s been worth it.
“Roslyn Proffer is the best reining trainer, and I wouldn’t train with anybody else,” she said.
“I never in a million years thought Lizzy would win,” Rhonda Brennecke added. “I knew the horse was very good , but Lizzy was still new. I thought another little girl was ahead of her, so when they announced that Lizzy was the champion it was a really big deal.”
Proffer was pleased but not surprised that Lizzy won her first national competition.
“It’s pretty exciting,” she said. “It was a huge show and since she had only been riding for just a little over a year, it was important to have consistent training. She did a fantastic job and rode the horse really well.”
Afterward, Lizzy rewarded Listo with his favorite treats — apples and carrots.
“He’s more than an animal, he’s my best friend,” she said. “It’s not just me who won, he did all the work. I just had to ride him well.”
It was a long day for Lizzy and her mother, but rewarding.
“I was tired because I had to get up at 5:15 a.m. for three mornings,” Lizzy said. “It was the last day of the show and I thought, yay, it’s over and ended well.”
Sunday night, before returning the next day to Diegueno Middle School, Lizzy sat down with the family to enjoy a victory dinner with the main course being her mother’s famous baked pasta.
“It’s good to know that I can be good at something other than school work,” Lizzy said. “It’s fun because you have to do school work, but I choose to do this and I do it well.”