Iola-Scandinavia students Mia Wandtke, Shelby Trzebiatowski and Courtney Mallo are your typical high school students; they like sports, hanging with their friends and having fun.
Outside of school the three girls share a unique bond as well; a love for horses.
“I have always loved and wanted horses, since I was little,” said Trzebiatowski. “When I was around 8 years old my parents bought our first horse. Soon after, one turned to three and three turned to four.”
“I have liked horses ever since I can remember,” said Mallo. “When I finished second grade, my mom starting working with a lady that had horses, and she was willing to give me lessons.”
“My grandma has always had horses, so I was raised with them,” said Wandtke. “Ever since I was in diapers, I’ve been riding.”
All the girls agree that horses are a huge commitment.
“Horses are a lot of hard work,” said Trzebiatowski. “You have to be fully committed to taking care of them and keeping up with training.”
“There are a lot of hours put in,” said Wandtke.
“I don’t like how expensive all the horse things are,” Mallo said.
Along with the hard work, comes a lot of reward.
“I think it is really cool that you can get a 1,000 pound animal to respect you and listen to you,” said Mallo.
“When you put in all that work and end up doing well when it comes to shows or when you make a breakthrough in training it’s all worth it,” said Trzebiatowski. “That’s my favorite part.”
From horse shows, to 4-H or simply trail riding, the girls have set their sights on future plans.
“I plan on getting into all the rodeo stuff when I’m older,” said Wandtke. “Right now I’m starting with speed shows, and help out at the Mid-Western Rodeo with the drill team.”
“I compete in Manawa at the fun shows, and go to Kellner for their gymkhanas,” she said. “Most of the time I just go out on the trails or ride into Rural from my grandma’s farm in King.”
“I borrow a friend’s horse for 4-H and local shows,” said Mallo.
“Currently I am in the process of teaching my own horse how to barrel race so we can compete in rodeos,” she said. “Hopefully next summer we can compete.”
The girls take pride in what they have achieved this far.
“I have won many ribbons and prizes over the years,” said Trzebiatowski. “I am most proud of my reserve champion ribbon I received during fair of 2013 in English Pleasure.”
“Above that, the biggest reward has been seeing progress in my horse’s training throughout the years,” she said.
“I have gotten multiple reserve, grand champions and top 10 awards over the years,” said Mallo. “Along with quite a few first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth place ribbons.”
“The one award that I am most proud of is one that I just got recently,” she said. “I got reserve champion out of 41 horses. It was totally unexpected, but it made all the hard work that I’ve done with the horse totally worth it.”
“Last year I was awarded second place overall for the Manawa show series,” said Wandtke. “This year the results are yet to come.”
“I won three trophies out of the five shows this season for Manawa,” she said. “I am so happy with my horse it’s unbelievable. Nobody ever thought much of him besides being a great trail horse.”
“Thinking about it now, it occurred to me that I’m the one that is getting him to do these things,” she said. “To see him exceed and win consistently makes me so proud. There isn’t one day were he gives up on me.”
The girls agree that their families played a big part in what they do.
“My mom influenced me the most, because she owned horses as a kid” said Trzebiatowski.
“My Grandma Diane has influenced me the most,” said Wandtke. “She keeps the horses at her farm and is always giving me new things to work on and consistently pushing me to get better.”
“My trainers have influenced me the most,” said Mallo. “But my mom is my biggest fan.”
Wandtke is quick to point out all the different types of showing she has done over the years.
“My family has always been there supporting me. Without them most of my horse activities wouldn’t be possible,” she said.
The three offer words of advice to others wanting to own a horse.
“If you want to own a horse, be prepared to work hard at it,” said Trzebiatowski. “Whether it’s cleaning out stalls, riding and feeding every day, it’s your responsibility and not anyone else. If you really love it, it’s totally worth it.”
“From just being with the horses to the shows, and all the adrenaline rushes, everything about it is amazing,” said Wandtke.
“It involves a lot of responsibility, patience and dedication,” said Mallo. “But it is all very rewarding and a lot of fun.”