Orange resident equestrian world champion
BETHANY - Chelsey Abate, 14, of Orange is a typical teenager, says her mom, Susan Abate.
But when she's taking a horseback riding lesson, Chelsey is wise beyond her years - and that's in large part what makes her a world champion, said Chelsey's trainer, Melissa Lambrecht.
"Although she's a young teenager, once she's in the ring with the horse, she's not a teenager. There are no tears, no whining, so she absorbs what I say," said Lambrecht.
That doesn't mean Chelsey doesn't have her meltdowns over mistakes in the ring; it's just that the honors student at Amity Regional High School knows they belong in private.
"If you keep stopping and having a hissy fit, you'll never really learn," Chelsey said, as if the wisdom were a no-brainer.
All that good listening to Lambrecht helped make Chelsey the 2006 Junior Equitation Hunt Seat on the Flat champion at the Grand National World Championship Morgan Horse Show in Oklahoma City.
It is one of the competitions the 3,000 young riders attending the show hope to win, some returning year after year, to no avail. Chelsey, who won a championship this, her first time out, had to win many qualifying local and regional competitions just for the privilege of competing.
"I was pleasantly surprised. I knew she had what it took," said Lambrecht, owner of Wynter Thyme Farm in Bethany and a fourth-generation horse person. "Before we went, I looked at mom, I said, 'Yup, it's her year - she's winning."'
Chelsey started riding horses at age 7 and usually had birthday parties involving the animals. But it wasn't until two years ago she decided to get serious and began training with Lambrecht. Now she rides three times a week when school's in session and every day during vacations.
She won the division championship on Mylo, her 6-year-old, reddish-brown Morgan horse who loves apples and peppermints as treats, and wore his championship neck ring of roses well. Mylo comes from a line of champions and is a talented horse who placed fourth in the world championships in Oklahoma in a horse category, Lambrecht said.
Since Chelsey wants to compete again this year, but will be in a senior division because of her age, she needed a larger, more powerful horse, so her parents bought Cupid, a 7-year-old dark bay Morgan she's in the midst of training.
Chelsey told her parents, Susan and Vinni Abate, she could never give up Mylo to buy a larger horse and so they decided a second horse was a worthwhile investment.
"I'm very proud of her," said Susan Abate.
Chelsey said it is a general love of animals and the individual nature of the competition that helps drive her dedication to horseback riding.
"I like individual sports more than team sports because you don't have to depend on other people," Chelsey said. "It's a lot of fun. … I was really, really surprised that I won."