"It’s all about the horse," Nicole Adams explained as she brushed 13-year-old Tequila Sunrise as she readied for the Regional 4-H competition in Little Rock, Arkansas, the first weekend in August.
Those who know how disciplined and hard working Nicole is beg to differ! While Tequila Sunrise, an impressive 17-hands tall and 1,500 lbs., shows well in numerous categories, it’s Nicole’s determination and skill that often makes the difference in competition.
Nicole returned to her St. Clair County home with four top tens in five classes from Regionals.
Nicole and Tequila Sunrise placed: 3rd out of 50 in Equitation Over Fences; 7th out of 101 in Hunter Under Saddle; 8th out of 40 in Working Hunter Over Fences; 8th out of 40 in Hunter Type Geldings (an in hand class); and in the Top 15 out of 101 on Equitation on the Flat, making the Final Work Off.
A fellow rider also under the tutelage of 4-H Equine Leader Kirstin Murphy at Longview Farms, Cooper Dean and horse Smoochin on Me, also had three Top 10 placings and tied for Reserve High Point!
"This was a fantastic competition. A really good horse show," Nicole’s mother Patty said. "Florida and Virginia had top horses that would bring in the six figures."
Kirstin said, "It was an amazing trip. It was our club’s first visit to the Regionals [although Nicole competed last year on a different farm’s horse] and there was a great deal of competition. Some classes had more than 100 horses in them. We learned a lot and had a wonderful time."
Nicole said she entered hoping to get in the Top 10, knowing competition would be stringent, especially since this was only her second competition this year.
She competed earlier in the State 4-H Finals in Montgomery where, among other honors, she earned the High Point Buckle for Hunter Jumpers.
The Little Rock trip was made possible in part by the sponsorship of St. Clair Farmers Co-op in Pell City, where Nicole works part time and Patty has worked full time for the past eight years. (Dad Kevin and 14-year-old brother Sean are supportive of Nicole’s competitions, but are more into mechanical "things" like riding and racing motorcycles!)
Nicole inherited her love for all-things-horse from her mom Patty and began riding before the age of five.
Co-op Manager Matthew Kay said he wasn’t ever surprised when Nicole returned from competitions with numerous awards because "she is so mature, responsible and disciplined. She’s way beyond her years in so many areas."
Nicole is a senior at Pell City High this year and has many honors including serving as President of the FFA. While she has always desired to become a veterinarian, this would require going to Auburn, so she’s thinking of attending UAB and majoring in psychiatry so she can stay closer to her St. Clair County home and keep training her horses and competing.
While she is open to the ideas of combining her love for horses and perhaps what she learns in psychiatry, like a therapeutic riding program or something similar, Nicole said, "Right now I just want to stay closer to home."
Tequila Sunrise is soon going to be sold to the Murphys at Longview Farms in Shelby County where Nicole trains. Nicole wants to devote time now to training a newer mare, but she’ll still be able to ride and visit with Tequila Sunrise.
Kirstin is the wife of Dennis Murphy, Jr., and they, along with Dennis Murphy, Sr., run the 500-acre Longview Farm training hunters and jumpers, and providing boarding.
Murphy Sr. is a former Olympian, Pan American Team Gold Medalist and more.
The farm has a 44-stall barn, large sand jumping area, clubhouse, round pen and many acres for turnout and trail riding. Their website notes their biggest asset is likely that the farm is run "by three generations of horse lovers!"
Kirstin is Nicole’s personal trainer and heads the Shelby County Frequent Flyer 4-H Club to which Nicole is an active member.
Others from that club who competed at State included Marcella Garrett, Callie Smothers, Holly Hall and Mickaela McCoy, who had many wins.
At State in the Senior Division, Nicole was State High Point Hunter Seat Rider; 1st Place Equitation Over Fences; 1st Place Equitation on the Flat; 1st Place Dressage Test; 2nd Place Hunter Hack; 2nd Place Hunter Under Saddle; 4th Place Horse Judging "Reasons;" 5th Place Horse Judging Overall (out of 50); 8th Place Hunter Seat Trail Class; 8th Place Artistic Expression; and 8th Place Artwork.
Nicole and Patty said fundraisers, like bake and yard sales, and the Pell City Co-op’s sponsorship made the Regional trip possible.
Kay explained it "was easy" to decide to sponsor Nicole, knowing her love for horses and her work ethic.
While his store caters to all sorts of agriculture and home needs, Kay noted he is "in the process of revamping our tack line. We serve a lot of horse customers and we have the best in feeds tailored to this area’s horses’ needs."
The Pell City store moved to its current location on Hardwick Road about 16 years ago after having been across from the St. Clair Courthouse in downtown Pell City for more than 50 years. Kay has served as store manager about six years.
Kirstin said, "We appreciate the good feeds the Co-op stocks and we’re probably some of their most loyal customers!"
Kirstin, Patty and Nicole trailered Tequila Sunrise to the competition and were tired but still excited when they returned home late the following Monday.
"We’re just so proud of Nicole and what she has accomplished," Kirstin said.
More information on Longview Farms and Nicole and the others’ competitions can be viewed at www.longviewhunterjumpers.com.
Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer from Blount County. You can reach her at www.suzysfarm.com.