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Maple Ave Middle School’s Alexa Rahman is Conquering the Equestrian World
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Let’s begin with a little exercise:
- Start by thinking of all the 13 year-olds that you know.
- Next, eliminate all but those who can look you in the eye with a quiet, yet determined, confidence and convince you that they have found their life’s profession.
- Now, subtract all but those 13 year-olds who have already reached the absolute pinnacle of that calling.
What are you left with? Meet Alexa Rahman. Multiple World Champion Morgan (show) horse equestrian. Also, an eighth grader at Maple Avenue Middle School.
This season, Alexa has a championship for each year of her existence: A stunning 13 titles in various aspects of show horse riding ( see record at end of story), culminating in two world championships and one reserve (runner-up) championship at last month’s Morgan Grand Nationals in Oklahoma City.
When discussing her performances and techniques, Alexa has acquired so much knowledge, so fast, that you forget her young age. It’s only when she credits her “Nana and Papa,” as well as her parents, Marisa and Bernard, with instilling a love for riding in her at a young age, that are you jolted back to reality and realize that she’s just a nice young lady.
“I started riding at about age 3½,” Alexa noted. “I always had a love for animals, even having big stuffed horses all around my room. My Nana gave me riding lessons for my fourth birthday.” Her first instructor was Barbara Diamond at Clover Ridge Farms on Middle Grove Road. Alexa showed quite a bit of aptitude, competing in her first show at age seven, and garnering ribbons at local shows in Saratoga Springs, Fonda and Cobleskill. Eventually, she was referred to Rolling Oaks Stable in Gansevoort. Her first instructor was Sue Friday, the owner’s mother and she is now trained by Owner Keith Friday and Assistant Trainer Maggie Smith. The team at Rolling Oaks further developed Alexa’s techniques and she made her first Grand National appearance in 2012.
As rare as Alexa’s accomplishments are, it is further unusual in the manner it gets done. Simply put, she competes primarily in two sub-categories: Equitation and Pleasure. Each involves a precise list of gaits and the rider controlling their positions atop the horse as well as the horse’s posture while competing. “In terms of control, I would say Equitation involves 60 percent rider, 40 percent horse. Pleasure is more like 60 percent horse, 40 percent rider,” Alexa said.
Also rare is the fact that she uses two different horses to compete: Baxter (which the Rahmans own) and Zoe. The competitors are in the ring at the same time, working against an ideal performance for the judges, rather than each other. This fosters an atmosphere that is more collegial than competitive, and Alexa notes that she has made many friends on the Morgan show horse circuit.
“It’s fun, but I have to be focused,” Alexa said when asked how it feels to be competing in a disciplined routine. Indeed, when you see her perform (see link at end), she accomplishes the difficult feat of appearing effortless, but in fact she assures you that she is working hard at keeping control of her movements as well as the horse’s.
This is an area of equine competition that is primarily purely for the love of sport. Prize money, if any, is minimal. Marisa Rahman estimated that the cost of everything: stabling, transporting, lodging and competing both for horse and rider to be about $55,000 per year. So consider it an entire family commitment to allow a champion to excel.
As central as show horse competition is to Alexa’s life, she is a well-rounded individual who is an honor class student at Maple Avenue, a member of the Select Chorus, and plays First Violin in the Chamber Orchestra. She has ambitions to perhaps become a veterinarian, or perhaps a horse owner/trainer – but all with an eye to fund her first love.
This is a sport that has no Michael Jordan with a record for her to aim at, although Alexa Rahman looks up to the accomplishments of her trainers Friday and Smith as inspirations. For her, like the competitions themselves, she is competing only against an ideal.
So what’s next when you’re a world champion at age 13?
“I’d like to have a year where I go undefeated,” Alexa says with a giggle. The nice young lady in her would half-like to take it back, but the competitor that wants a challenge wins out.
Here’s a tip: Don’t bet against her.
To view Alexa Rahman’s performance at the Oklahoma City Morgan Grand Nationals, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhJ0fvuASVg&sns=em
A CHAMPION’S RECORD
This year, Alexa Rahman has captured 13 show horse championships, culminating with World Championships in Oklahoma City:
Morgan Grand Nationals and World Championship October OKC
Hunter Pleasure 13 and Under Championship World Champion
Hunter Pleasure 12 and Under Qualifier Reserve Champion
Huntseat on the Flat Championship World Champion
New York Morgan Regional - September Syracuse
Huntseat Equitation 13 and Under Qualifier Champion
Huntseat Equitation 17 and Under Championship Champion
Hunter Pleasure Youth (21 and Under) Champion
Hunter Pleasure Junior Exhibitor 13 and Under Qualifier Champion
Hunter Pleasure Jr. Ex 17 and Under Championship Champion
Mass Morgan - August - Massachusetts
Huntseat Equitation 13 and Under Qualifier Reserve Champion
Hunter Pleasure Jr. Exhibitor 13 and Under Qualifier Champion
Hunter Pleasure Jr. Ex 13 and Under Championship Champion
N. England Morgan Horse Show – July
UPHA Jr. Challenge Cup Saddleseat - Champion
Syracuse International June Syracuse
Huntseat Equitation 17 and Under Qualifier Champion
Huntseat Equitation 17 and Under Championship Champion
Hunter Pleasure Jr. Ex Championship Champion