Few people get to live their dream, especially teenagers. However, 17-year old Laurel Madison Pollock is not only living her dream, but plans to continue moving forward in it for a long time.
Pollock has a passion for horses and owns two of them; a Tennessee walking horse named Old Red, and an Arabian horse named Able. She added some insight into her horses’ personalities, “Old Red is a gentleman and always ready to please while Able on the other hand is extremely smart, charming and devious.”
Last year, Pollock volunteered at the French Broad Classic at the Biltmore and said she really liked the structure of the rides and the fellowship of everyone. From there, she decided to ride in the North American Trail Ride Conference (NATRC), along with her friends Jennifer Mulligan and Mikayla, both of whom had previously ridden. NATRC is a national organization that hosts competitive trail rides.
“I bought R-Kons Able, his registered name, from my friend Nancy Sluys who was actually the host of the NATRC ride we competed in. He is the first registered horse I have owned,” Pollack said.
“For my first NATRC ride, Able and I rode 21.7 miles in 5 hours and 54-minutes,” Pollock added. “You and your horse are evaluated separately as the rider is judged on horsemanship with their horse and the other riders, and the horse is evaluated on fitness and manners.”
Pollock also mentioned that there are several “levels” of NATRC rides, but in all levels, the goal is to ride closest to the optimum time and to negotiate the natural obstacles along the trail where the rider and the horse are judged.
“I got second in the Junior Division, and Able got first out of the horses,” said Pollock who also win ribbons, blankets and a gift card. “However, it’s not about the trophies I have won but about working to get better in the trail of learning experience, so I can eventually compete on higher levels of the industry.”
Marge Lewter, Pollock’s mother, said that she had always had a love for horses, just as she does. “My mother rides, and we have always owned horses so it was natural that I would inherit the love for horses and riding,” Pollock said.
When asked who her mentors were, Pollack quickly commented that it was her parents. “Mainly my mother has fostered my passion, as she has always brought me to horse shows, trail rides (we would ride double when I was little), riding lessons and 4-H. For that, I will always be thankful.”
“I am very proud of her accomplishments, and I admire her determination to follow her dreams. We look so forward to her future through college and beyond,” her mother said.
Lewter also added that she appreciated all the adult mentors who reached out to her daughter to give her the variety of opportunities she has experienced. “I am also thankful for the 4-H program which gives youth so many opportunities for leadership,” she said.
Years ago, Lewter herself was a 4-H member and attended 4-H Congress at Virginia Tech. “That also helped forge my way to a career in veterinary medicine,” she said.
Pollock added, “4-H is a huge part of my journey with horses as I am a 4-H Horse Ambassador, a second-year member of the 4-H State Horse Judging Team and a member of this year’s 4-H State Hippology Team. I am also a member of the Back Country Horsemen Association which helps the forest service maintain trails.”
Although she has won medals, trophies and plaques, Pollock’s favorite win was at the Virginia Commonwealth Games where she participated and won a leather halter.
For other young riders, Lewter’s wish is that more of the local youth take advantage of the opportunities available through Virginia Cooperative Extension.
“Stewardship of resources, sportsmanship and volunteerism are great foundations for youth,” she said. “Having your own horse is not a requirement for the horse club, and there are many other opportunities such as the livestock club, the teen club, the dog club and the shooting stars in Craig County.”
Pollock is currently teaching Able to jump. “I am getting ready for the State 4-H competition which is in September,” she said. “I will be a senior in high school this year, and I’m looking to apply to colleges. Eventually, I want to work in the horse industry.”