When Jennifer Carter chose Leaps and Bounds as the name for the horse she would be riding in three-day equestrian competitions, she had no idea just how fitting that moniker would be.
Leaps and bounds also describes the way Carter's career is growing. The 1988 graduate of Kenai Central High School (she was Jennifer Harris back then) recently competed in the Foxhall Cup which, with its $210,000 purse, is the richest three-day equestrian event.
"To put it in perspective, at Foxhall, one of the jumps is a Bentley convertible," Carter said. "It's one of the smaller jumps, and it's called the richest cross-country jump in the world at $300,000."
Carter and Leaps and Bounds finished 19th out of the 67 horses at the event, and while she did earn a small portion of the purse, her finish also opened up other doors -- including getting her name on a list of potential riders for the U.S. national team and making her eligible to compete in Europe.
"I'm long-listed for the U.S. team, which basically means I've met the first set of qualifications for team selection," Carter said. "I'm certainly qualified to go over (to Europe) with the U.S. team -- they would have to select me, but I can apply."
A three-day equestrian competition starts with dressage on day one, an event based on exercises used to test cavalry officers on control of their horse.
Day two is the cross-country steeplechase, an event in which horse and rider barrel around a course that features plenty of jumps, drops as much as 7 feet down and ditches that can be as wide as 11 feet. Combinations of fences surround many of the obstacles, making the course all the more difficult.
Day three is back to the stadium for show jumping, where horse and rider must complete a series of jumps around a short course.
Carter and Leaps and Bounds were in 53rd position after the dressage, something Carter said she was thinking about even before the event started.
"My dressage score was not so good. The mare is what we call hot -- she's a little opinionated," Carter said.
Carter had an outstanding day on the steeplechase course, though. She was one of nine riders in the field to complete the course without accruing any penalties. Carter moved up 30 places in the standings after day two, and she had another good day in the show jumping ring.
"It was great. I never expected it to go so well," Carter said.
Carter said her parents, Joe and June Harris of Kenai, bought her first horse for her when she was 13 years old. Her love of horses took her to Midway College just outside Lexington, Ky., the heart of thoroughbred country.
"That's what drew me there -- the horse population," Carter said. "I went there to ride, and I got a degree in equine management."
She also met her husband, Kyle Carter, in Lexington. Kyle has represented Canada at the Pan-Am Games in the three-day equestrian event. The couple has been married for four years, and when they're not competing, they're busy raising and training as many as 11 horses for equestrian competitions. The couple splits their time between a farm they own in Ocala, Fla., and the farm of one of their horse's owners in Kingston, Ontario.
Carter is proud to have brought Leaps and Bounds along to the sport's top level herself.
"It takes four to five years to get a horse to the top level," Carter said. "You definitely have to do a lot with a horse to get it to that point. ... It makes it that much more rewarding when you've actually brought the horse along yourself."
Carter said that part of their business is selling horses. Often a horse that shows potential at a lower level of competition will be sold, and many of the top riders have horses that were developed by someone else.
In fact, because of the financial nature of the sport, most horses are owned by someone other than their riders. Leaps and Bounds is owned by Elaine Davies of Hawkridge Farm in Canada.
For Carter, riding a Canadian-owned horse does have its drawbacks. Horses ridden by members of the U.S. national team need to have American owners, and Carter is hoping to put together a stable of American-owned horses she can develop into top-level contenders.
Carter said she's appreciated the opportunity she's had to work with Leaps and Bounds, and said that the horse's owners were taking just as much of a risk in letting an American rider develop their horse.
"Elaine and (her husband) Michael have put a great deal into this," Kyle said. "If it were ridden by a Canadian, it would be short-listed for the national team. They've gone out on a limb to have a rider from a different country. For Michael and Elaine to let Jen develop this horse took a lot of trust on their part."
Carter said she plans to continue working toward a spot on the U.S. national team, and the more experience she can get, the better her chances will be.
"The more horses you can get at the top level, the more experience you can get," Carter said. "The best riders are in their late 30s or early 40s, because of all the experience."
Nikiski's Glaze earns NAIA scholar-athlete award
Northwest Nazarene University's Mary Glaze recently was named an NAIA Scholar-Athlete for her efforts on the track and in the classroom.
Glaze, from Nikiski, has a 3.52 grade point average and is majoring in English education. On the track, Glaze was 13th in heptathlon at the NAIA National Track and Field Meet and was the Pacific West Conference champion in the event. Glaze holds the Crusaders record in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:05.32 and is a member of the school record-holding 1,600 relay team (4:00.67).
Lindsy Glaze, Mary's sister, also ran at the NAIA National Meet, competing in the 400 hurdles. She missed out on the finals, running a 1:10.11 to finish 24th overall.
Soldotna's Dougherty 12th at Division II meet
Soldotna's Annie Dougherty, a senior at North Dakota State University, placed 12th in the women's 1,500-meter run at the NCAA Division II National Track and Field Championships at Southern Illinois University.
Dougherty ran a 4:48.71 in the final for the Bison women's team, which finished sixth at the meet. Dougherty qualified for the finals on the strength of her 4:39.02 in her preliminary heat.
Kenai's Feeken earns Dean's Cup at UAA
Jason Feeken of Kenai, a graduate of Skyview High School, finished off his cross-country skiing season at the University of Alaska Anchorage by winning the Dean's Cup, an award given to a student athlete who displays outstanding performance in his or her academic pursuits.
Feeken has earned five academic letters during his college career to go with his four athletic letters. He was a two-year captain on the UAA men's cross-country ski team and was nominated for UAA's Athlete of the Year Award this season.
The Next Level highlights Kenai Peninsula athletes who have gone on to participate in athletics after high school. If you know of any such athlete, contact the Clarion sports department by phone at 283-7551, by fax at 283-3299 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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