Jones finished first in an individual category and third in a team category at the Youth Equestrian Development Association National Championships in Sunbury, about 20 miles outside Columbus.
The association builds the riding skills of fourth- through 12th-graders and steers them toward college scholarships, according to its website. The championships featured more than 100 competitors from Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. Points are awarded for riders’ horsemanship and style as they ride patterns around cones.
Jones, a 16-year-old Edison High School sophomore, has loved horses since she could speak, said her father, Roger Jones. “It’s just something that’s a passion of hers,” he said.
Jones, who started taking riding lessons in 2009, said she admires the “unbreakable” bond between a horse and rider. However, it’s difficult to establish a bond with a horse you’ve never ridden. Jones said the most challenging aspect of the competition was getting a horse unfamiliar with her to respond promptly to her commands within minutes.
“You don’t know what to expect when you get on the horse,” she said. “You have to figure it out (fast) and each horse is different.”
Jones has worked with coach Debby Arnold of the Ashland-based Arnold Equestrian Team since the fall. Arnold, who has coached more than 100 students since 2011 and dealt with hundreds of riders since becoming involved with horses in 1982, said Jones is an advanced rider.
“She’s very focused (and) very dedicated,” said Arnold, who helped found the association. “And very teachable.”
This was Jones’ first time competing in the association championship, but not her first competition. She has competed in the Ohio Interscholastic Horse Association for two years and her Fremont team won the state championship in the two years she has been on it. Jones has competed for the last two years at the Ohio State Fair.
Jones, who is considering becoming a veterinarian, hopes her YEDA participation leads to a college scholarship. Regardless of whether she receives one, Jones said the competition has been worthwhile.
“It was definitely nerve wracking, but I tried not to let my nerves get to me,” she said. “I’m very happy how it turned out and I’m very thankful to my parents and team. I wouldn’t be here without them.”