Oct 27, 2013 - By Randy Tucker, Staff WriterWind River freshman Danyka Ingalls rode a lot of miles since April in her mom and dad's pickup with her talented horse named Rocky towed behind in the horse trailer.
Ingalls competes across the West in reining competitions in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and Idaho, along with higher-level competitions in Las Vegas and San Francisco.
In a nearly unprecedented performance, the 14-year old from Pavillion has qualified for the national finals next month in Oklahoma City at the Rookie 2 level.
A member of the Rocky Mountain Reining Horse Association and the Cowboy States Reining Association, Ingalls's qualification for the national finals is extremely rare for a first-year competitor.
She began working in horse competitions as a 7-year old in the horse showing competition at the Fremont County Fair in Riverton. From there, she gradually became more involved in reining and in rodeo.
"I like reining better than rodeo," Ingalls said.
With the number of events across the vastness of the West, time is a huge commitment in the sport.
Reining is judged on the exactness of a circuit the horse and rider must complete. Spectacular sliding stops with clouds of arena dust flying add to the spectacle.
Each competitor begins with a score of 70 and judges can add or subtract from there at half-point increments. Ingalls scored a 72.5 in San Francisco.
"My trainer tells me it's a mental game," Ingalls said. "You have to memorize your pattern and keep control of your horse at all times. You consider yourself lucky if you get a 70 or higher."
While Ingalls was first in the youth division of the Idaho Circuit and fourth in the rookie division, it was a fourth-place finish at a regional level contest in Denver that earned her a spot in the national finals.
Finding the right horse is perhaps the biggest factor in succeeding in the sport. Ingalls works with Rocky, whose registered name is "Vintage Rock and Roll" and trains with Jackson Porath and wife Stephanie at their Rock Creek Reining facility in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
A danger in reining competition is putting an experienced horse with an inexperienced rider. Mishandling a horse can create bad habits and lesson the financial and competitive value of the animal, but Ingalls and Rocky were a good match from their first competition.
"We butt heads quite a bit, but I love him," Ingalls said of Rocky.
Wyoming had major competitions in Big Piney and Gillette this season, with smaller local competitions at other venues.
Ingalls placed third in San Francisco in the "Reining by the Bay" competition (actually at Woodside, Calif.) in a huge arena.
"It was the first big show I ever went to, and I was scared," Ingalls said.
In spite of missing three shows this season the Wind River freshman met her goal for the year.
Her trainer tried to keep her feet on the ground and point out that not many first-year riders make the nationals, but Ingalls set a goal early.
"My goal this year was to make the finals," Ingalls said.
Competitive levels range from Rookie, Rookie 2, Non-professional to Open Class and are set by the amount of money at stake. Ingalls is near the top of the Rookie 2 level and probably won't compete as a rookie again in spite of being in the sport less than a year.
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