Young equestrian shows Friesians, walking horses

Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Williams posing with both ribbons and horse after a showing this past fall.
Photos submitted

For many children, starting sports at an early age and gaining a specialty in football, basketball, soccer, or baseball is becoming increasingly common.

But one Chapel Hill youngster has taken a different path — riding and showing horses for as long as she could walk — Raelynn Williams, just 7 years old, is now taking the hobby to the next level, participating in the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration before competing in The National Academy Championship Horse Show in Murfreesboro November, 3 thru 6.

“It’s just fun,” said Williams, a first grade student in Nicole Lowe’s class at Chapel Hill Elementary School. “I enjoy getting ribbons, so it makes me want to try harder every time.”

The NACHS show is in its 18th year and is a three-day, three-judge event that strives to bring together the nation’s most talented academy riders for both competition and charity.

The show benefits St. Jude’s to fund research for children that are battling serious diseases.

The 2017 show raised over $35,500 and has now donated $324,500 to St. Jude’s over that 18-year span.

Williams did well enough during the first round on the first day to move on and participate the entire weekend before finally finishing fifth overall in the highly competitive event.

“I love trotting and competing against other riders,” Williams said. Williams’ love of all things horses’ runs in the family, as her mother, Rachel Clifford owns a nearby horse farm, Renaissance Friesians, and was recently voted vice president of The Friesian Horse Association of the Middle Eastern US (FHAME).

Raelynn helping with a mare in October at the Friesian Inspection show.

Friesians, which originated in The Netherlands, are a highly unique breed that were highly sought after for war horses in the Middle Ages but now are popular for usage both under saddle and harness.

The striking, usually black coated, horse is a popular breed in both movies and television because of their calm demeanor on set.

“I was showing lead line at 4 years old and have owned horses on and off my whole life,” Clifford explained. “My passion for horses lead me to a B.A. of Science (concentrate in Horse Science). I went to MTSU and in January of 2013 I was blessed with the chance of a lifetime to start a breed program with KFPS registered Friesians. Raelynn had just turned 3 when she started riding the Friesians.”

But how Williams came to start showing and riding in competitions happened with a chance encounter with Alice Kleine of Alice Klein Equestrians off State Route 130 in Shelbyville.

“Alice heard about the Friesians and came to my barn to introduce herself,” Clifford said. “It wasn’t long after that, I started taking Raelynn and her older brother Taylor to Alice’s farm for lessons.”

“Klein asked me if we would like to try something different for Raelynn,” Clifford continued. “Raelynn has been showing Tennessee Walking Horses for two seasons now. This is the first season that she was ready to ride by herself. The National Academy Championship horse show is all trotting horses, mainly

Saddle breeds. Raelynn spent the past two months learning how to post and learning diagonals.”

One of the most important steps in getting any young person to really enjoy any kind of sport is having a great coach, trainer, or mentor and with Klein, Williams seems to have found a great fit.

“Alice Klein is wonderful instructor and has really opened both of my kid’s eyes to many different disciplines of riding,” Clifford said. “And also Raelynn is currently learning to drive a horse and cart.”

Any person wishing to find more about riding lessons for themselves or a child in the area can visit both Anne Klein Equestrians and Renaissance Friesians on Facebook for both numbers and addresses.