"Horses and girls, it's a wonderful thing."

There were plenty of wonderful things Saturday at the Lander University Equestrian Center as the Lander Summer Jumper Show got underway.

More than 30 riders vied for ribbons at the event that featured young riders and their horses jumping rails set at various heights.

The jumper show is based on time and keeping the rails up, said Amy Cobb, the equestrian team coach. If a rider knocks down a rail, it is a 4-penalty count.

Jumping deals more on speed. The time starts on the first fence and ends on the last fence. Cobb and other workers in a stand overlooking the arena logged each rider's time, remarking favorably as one rider finished the course in 51 seconds.

Saturday's event featured several divisions, including cross rails, and jumping rails set at 2 feet all the way up to 3 feet, seven inches.

The show is mostly done for young, inexperienced riders and their horses so they can get their feet wet, she said. Up to six riders each were scheduled to compete in seven divisions.

The goal is to offer something for everyone. Free events are presented about once a month, Cobb said.

Although speed is part of the event, very little was either fast or furious. Riders prompted their horse to a steady clip while being urged by parents or teachers to "Sit up straight" or "Squeeze and release." 

Most horses had no problem with the fences. Occasionally, a horse would balk and the rider would have to circle around to approach the fence again, sometimes once, sometimes twice.

A few riders represented Mallory Horse Farm in Leesville. Saturday was their first visit to the equestrian center, said Jennifer Mallory. The covered arena drew praise, especially given the sweltering temperatures. "We'll definitely come back," she said.

The girls are looking for experience and riding in a different place. The opportunity gives the horses confidence, as well as the riders, she said.

Shannon Abbey, 11, rode New York Charlie. He is a green horse, which means he is young (2½ years old) and still learning. Abbey has a wall of ribbons, said Wendy Abbey, who rode horses as a child, and is getting back into it after years of being away.

"It's a wonderful sport to be involved in," Wendy said. "You take care of the horse; the horse's needs come first, then the rider's needs."

Shannon's lessons through working with horses involves learning character, perseverance, and a good work ethic since part of the work includes feeding horse and cleaning up after them.

Parents and mentors weren't the only ones giving advice. Penelope Lee talked to her horse, Belle, after one of their runs. "You have to go over all the jump without dodging. Yes, I'm talking to you."

While the riders take care of the horses, that can work the other way around, according to Dayton Wells who attended the show with Jared Beasley Sporthorses out of Liberty. She rides Copper, a horse she acquired in November.

"Copper is one of the best things to happen to me," Wells said, adding that she has learned confidence both in and out of the arena. "He's very calm and sweet." He also is very patient, as she recalled him working with very young children.

When she first got Copper, she said she had trouble making him canter. "I just had to learn where the brakes and the gas pedal on him were. You have to find that balance."

"I can definitely trust him," said Wells, who has been riding for nearly six years. "He's just like a really good puppy dog. He definitely takes care of me."

"Riding makes me happier," she said. "When I'm upset, I will ride for hours. I'm in a lot better mood a lot more of the time."

Beasley brought nine horses and several riders to the show. He said his students have performed well.

Shows teach the responsibility of having an animal and being an all-around good human, he said, echoing his business' motto, "Together, we rise up."

Up to 45 students attend his business, which teaches them to be professional riders. Students need to participate in at least 12 shows every year, he said. The goal is always to be better.

Contact staff writer Robert Jordan at 864-943-5650.