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Local girls riding high

Katie Stranberg jumps with her beloved horse "Custom Made." Reminder Publications submitted photo
By Courtney Llewellyn,Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM - Katie Strandberg and Meghan Bell became friends after they started boarding their horses at the same barn.

The two recently culminated a three week Spring Circuit hunter/jumper horse show competition at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, N.Y., as Circuit Champions.

Katie, who will be a senior at Minnechaug Regional High School this fall, has been riding since she was six years old. Her mother, Terri Strandberg, said that she believes that her daughter definitely wants to continue riding and showing while at college.

"I like everything about riding and showing," Katie said. Her goal is to one day open her own barn and teach people how to ride. While not sure of her future college major, she said she definitely wants to minor in equine studies.

She earned two Circuit Champion awards at the competition, one in Children's Jumper High 16-17, and the other in Modified Junior/Amateur Jumper.

Katie also finished fourth in the last two of the three matches in the $22,500 Children/Adult Championship. Her horse, Custom Made, is an eight-year-old Belgian Warmblood.

She knew the instant she sat on Custom Made that that was the horse for her.

"I wasn't even looking to buy a horse at the time, but it was perfect," Katie said. She drives over an hour to see Custom Made everyday.

When asked what she'll be doing with the money she's won at competitions, Katie said, "I was thinking about getting a new car, but I'll probably go shopping and spend it on clothes."

Meghan Bell, another prize-winning rider, will be entering Minnechaug this fall as a freshman. She was awarded Circuit Champion in Novice Equitation. Meghan's horse, Dutch by Design, is a seven-year-old Dutch Warmblood.

Meghan's father Pete said that his daughter fell in love with horses when she was three years old, and has been riding for the past seven years. She's been competing for the past six.

"Her goal is to continue to show through college," Bell said. Like her friend Katie, Meghan would also like to open her own facility and become a trainer someday.

Both girls board their horses and ride at Narnia Farm in East Windsor, Conn., training under Sherry Hyland Phillips. They will be competing this summer at various local and national shows including the Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, Vt., and will be returning to Saugerties, N.Y. in August and September.

HITS, or Horse Shows in the Sun, is an organization that presents shows for hunter/jumper competitions in California, Florida, Arizona, Virginia and upstate New York. It was founded in Saugerties, N.Y., in 1982.