Brooke Viele has dedicated herself to mastering the reining and emotional aspects of her competitions as a western rider, and she will be rewarded in May when she represents Albion College in the AQHA Collegiate Cup.
The senior from Midland, Mich., will be the second rider to represent Albion on the national stage, following Tricia Marheine-Nelson, '10, who advanced to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association's national show in 2009. Viele earned her nationals trip by finishing as the high point rider in the region for the regular season.
"It's nice to bring recognition to the western team. We have worked hard to prove ourselves in our first year as a varsity program," Viele, an English major with an elementary education concentration who is completing her student teaching assignment in a kindergarten classroom at Hughes Elementary School in Marshall. "More than half of the riders qualified for regionals and there are a lot of good first-year riders. The team is looking good for the future."
Viele has made great progress in her reining skills after picking up the discipline midway through her sophomore year at Albion.
"We started by separating each maneuver – starting and performing a correct spin and finding the center of the arena on circles – and then put those things together to run a full pattern," Nathan Horsman, the Britons western coach, said. "She has learned to shape the horse through each quarter of the circle to make the whole symmetrical."
Viele says the bulk of points in reining depends on the rider hitting marks and there is a challenge of becoming accustomed with the visual cues in a new arena. Training three times a week, she hopes the spacious Albion arena will replicate what she will encounter at the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg, Pa.
While she doesn't know what the atmosphere will be like at the national level, Viele says the level of competition in the region has her well prepared.
"We have a big horse community here," she said. "Two riders from the region have won the national championship in the last five years. I know I'm on the level of the riders who are going to be there."
Doing well in an equestrian show sometimes means riders learn to compete to the best of their ability regardless of the horse they draw. Horsman delivers a consistent message to the Briton riders of learning something from each horse they ride.
"I have learned to ride the horse I've been assigned as opposed to getting discouraged when I didn't get the horse I hoped for," Viele said. "I've had horses that I didn't necessarily want and still pulled out first place."