Saddle Up!

Rockland County teens test their horsemanship skills at New York State Fair


Samantha Dizzine
Samantha Dizzine

WEST NYACK – Members of a group of young horse riders from Rockland County are showing off their newly-won ribbons earned in competition against some of the best riders in the state.

With their gear and their horses in prime condition, nine riders from Nickel-O Farms in West Nyack went to Syracuse, NY, last week to compete in riding events at the New York State Fair, which ran through Sept. 2.

The riders, eight girls and one boy ranging in age from 12 to 15, participate in Rockland County 4-H programs under the guidance of Nickel-O Farms owner Lisa Owen. While the young riders regularly compete in local horse events – such as the G&M Riding Club horse shows at Thomas Bull Memorial Park in Montgomery, NY – the events at the State Fair put them in direct competition with some of the state’s best young riders from across the State.

Olivia Zwernemann
Olivia Zwernemann

“It’s like going to the states for a football or a baseball player,” said Kate Dizzine of Valley Cottage, whose daughter, 12-year-old Samantha Dizzine, participated in State Fair riding events for a third year. “You have to be at a good level in riding to be in the State Fair.”

While the State Fair may not be as well known to downstate residents such as those in Rockland County, the fair is a massive event that includes a wide range of food and entertainment and highlights New York’s agricultural traditions. The fair dates back to 1841. The 2013 fair – with the theme “Sharing the Bounty of Pride of New York” – takes place on a 375-acre exhibit and entertainment complex.

In the weeks leading up to the State Fair, the Rockland 4-H riders from Nickel-O Farms worked with their horses, practicing their techniques and taking part in practice shows. A key part of the 4-H program, Dizzine said, is that the young riders are the ones who are fully responsible for the care of their horses and making sure they are ready for the big season-ending event in Syracuse.

1240778_10200766914228474_141124854_oThe Nickel-O riders and their family members hit the road early Wednesday, Aug. 28, for the trip to Syracuse, with all their gear and horses packed in trailers and SUVs. The local riders were to participate in events that Wednesday and Friday.

“It was really positive,” said Nickel-O owner Owen. “I was really proud of everyone.”

Owen said it’s one thing for the Rockland 4-H Club members to do well riding on her farm in West Nyack or at small horse shows, but it’s a completely different story when it comes to competing at the State Fair – with all its noise and distractions.

“It takes a really disciplined rider and a disciplined horse to make it at the State Fair,” Owen said. “Everyone who goes to State Fair learns more each time they go.”

Here are the local riders who participated in the 4-H competitions:

Brielle Arena,15, of West Nyack – riding Utah

Mikayla Healy,15, of New City – riding Elvis

Olivia Zwernemann,15, of Congers – riding Mighty Mouse

Holly O’Dowd,14, of Stony Point – riding Grady

Samantha Brosious, 14, of Valley Cottage – riding Casper

Alexa McConnell, 13, of New City – riding Bojangles

Tyler Guarino, 13, of Congers – riding Dylan

Brendan McKiernan,13, of West Nyack – riding Small Bear

Samantha Dizzine, 12, Valley Cottage – riding Pig Pen

Each rider can compete in five classes of events:



Western Pleasure


Western Riding

Stock Seat Equitation

Road Hack

Since the trek to Syracuse – about 240 miles – takes a lot of effort and planning, the Dizzine family turned the State Fair trip into a family vacation, building in time to see more of the fair than just the horse show events.

“The whole experience teaches the kids so much,” said Dizzine, who also grew up riding horses. “It teaches them about responsibility and the kids take a lot of pride in what they are doing.”

Nickel-O Farms, located on Strawtown Road in West Nyack, is one of several “barns” in Rockland County. Owen said Nickel-O is the only one from Rockland participating in the State Fair this year.

Here’s how the local riders did at the State Fair:

Brendan McKiernan: 10th in Trail; 5th in Pleasure; 2nd in Equitation; 5th in Horsemanship; 9th in Road Hack.

Mikayla Healy: 3rd in Trail; 9th in Western Riding; 9th in Western Pleasure.

Olivia Zwernemann: 5th in Senior Showmanship.

Samantha Dizzine: 1st in Western Pleasure; 2nd in Trail; 6th in Showmanship; 6th in Equitation.

Tyler Guarino: 6th in Trail; 5th in Western Pleasure; 10th in Showmanship; 4th in Stock Seat Equitation.

Samantha Brosious: 3rd in Trail; 1st in Western Riding; 2nd in Horsemanship; 1st in Stock Seat Equitation.

Brielle Arena: 9th in Showmanship; 3rd in Western Riding.

Holly O’Dowd: 10th in Horsemanship; 2nd in Stock Seat Equitation.

Each of the nine members of the Rockland 4-H team made it past the qualifying rounds in the competitions they participated in. Owen said about 40 horses and riders were involved in each of the competition categories.

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