Megan Behm and her teammates were feeling good about their performance in the July 23-28 United States Pony Club National Championship in Lexington, Ky., but when the final scores came up and they realized they had won first place, they were surprised and elated.
“When we saw that we were in first place we couldn't believe it, and we just wanted to hold that feeling,” said Behm, 18.
A recent Thomas Jefferson High School graduate and Great Falls resident, Behm served as captain of her four-person Virginia region team. She was one of more than 1,500 competitors from across the nation who represented their states in the weeklong competition. The Pony Club National Championship courses are located at the Kentucky Horse Park, site of the international equestrian championships sponsored by Rolex.
Behm's team of three riders and horse manager took first place in “eventing,” a three-phase competition including dressage, cross-country and stadium jumping. To win the blue ribbon, team members Behm, Christie McKitrick, Kristina Ehmann and Erica Jacquay achieved a total point value which placed them above 14 other teams in their division. Riding her horse “Connor,” Behm posted a personal best score in dressage, and perfect scores in cross country and stadium jumping.
Behm said they were surprised by their win because there were a few nerve-wracking moments for her and her teammates. After an initial panic when one of the girls pulled two rails during a jump course, Behm said they finally looked at each other and decided to stop beating themselves up about every little thing.
“She felt so terrible and we just said, you know, let's just relax and see what happens,” said Behm. “Everybody else pulled rails too, so we ended up winning anyway.”
Behm also had a “really bad” warm-up for her favorite event, cross-country.
“I crashed through a jump, and it really shook me up, but my horse Connor is fantastic — he just knew his job and he kind of got me grounded again,” said Behm.
Behm enjoys the thrill of the cross-country riding experience.
“It's a total adrenaline rush,” she said. “It's so much fun, and it's scary and exciting and fulfilling all at the same time. It's not necessarily about how pretty of a rider you are, or how good your horse is. There are some kinds of riding where, if you have a really nice well-bred horse you'll get good scores, but in cross-country it's all about the heart and the commitment and the bravery of the horse and the rider.”
Behm is attending the College of William and Mary in the fall and plans to continue entering competitive equestrian events.