By Amy Holmquist The Chronicle
The Pella Chronicle
---- — Mounting a horse she had never worked with before, equestrian rider Nadine Van Zomeren rode out into the William Woods Arena at William Woods University with a team of riders, competing in the trials for a chance to compete in the International Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup, a world renowned competition for Saddleseat English Riding.
She had just seven minutes to acquaint herself with the horse before riding out into the arena with a team of competitors. After riding with a team and individually in front of a panel of judges, shaking with excitement Nadine Van Zomeren heard her named called over the loudspeakers as a winner of the trials to compete in the World Cup in Asheville, North Carolina.
The Pella Community High School 2013 graduate has been a rider all her life along with her parents Mark and Renae Van Zomeren, and twin sister Avis Van Zomeren. Growing up as an equestrian rider on a farm with horses, Nadine Van Zomeren knew she wanted to try out for the challenging competition.
“Since I am the daughter of horse trainers, I have been accustomed to riding a variety of horses and adjusting to them. I have also been consistently at the top of the ranks in the U.S. in saddleseat equestrian competitions, which has been thrilling in itself,” Nadine Van Zomeren commented, “My mom has judged the trials twice and I have gone with her to watch and admire the best riders in the country. I vowed that I would someday try to be one of them. Making the tryouts was an honor in itself, but making the team with the highest score was unbelievable.”
The Van Zomeren family has spent their life running the family farm, Timber Hills Farm, near Leighton where they raise horses, teach people how to ride and take fellow riders to various competitions.
“We originally wanted to start out with just our own horses but then we had so many people asking about how to ride. And I love to teach, so then we started teaching people how to ride,” Renae Van Zomeren commented.
Over the years, they have grown a family of riders at Timber Hills Farm, along with their own two daughters. The Van Zomerens have had people from all over the Midwest, teaming up with Timber Hills Farm to learn how to ride for competitions. And they also teach beginners how to ride horses.
“We teach people how to be safe and how to have fun with the horse but we also teach them how to control the animal and I think that’s where the safety comes in and where the fun comes in. For those who want to ride and compete, we help them gain skills, poise and empathy for the horses and that gives them so many skills in one. It’s fun to watch them develop, ” Renae Van Zomeren said.
2013 was an especially exciting year for Timber Hills Farm as both of the Van Zomeren girls excelled in their respective competitions. Nadine Van Zomeren had the highest score in the World Cup trials, gaining her a spot to compete in the International Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup competition, and Avis Van Zomeren competed in the American Royal competition for performance riders and placed 4th.
Since graduation from Pella Community High School last May, Nadine Van Zomeren trained a few hours every day for the World Cup trials. Equestrian riding is described as “ballet on horses” where riders are judged on their horsemanship. The position of the riders’ legs, the way they carry their shoulders and their poise are all taken into consideration for an equestrian horse riding competition. She even signed up for track at Pella Community High School to strengthen her legs for riding and became a fairly good runner as well.
“I like to think that I didn’t choose to be an equestrian rider, this sport chose me since I was born into it,” Nadine Van Zomeren commented.
Along with training for their competitions, both girls along with their parents run the family farm. They are usually in the horse barn by 8 a.m., sometimes earlier in the hot summer months, to care for the horses. They spend at least an hour each day with each horse, grooming the animal, cleaning the stall and training. Then they spend their afternoons and evenings giving lessons to riders.
“When our girls were born 18 years ago, we wanted to do this as a family,” Renae Van Zomeren said about their choice to start a farm with horses.
It’s hard work running the farm, but taking care of horses and competing in competitions have brought the Van Zomerens together as a family and taught the girls great life experiences.
“Being an equestrian has shaped me into the person that I am more than one would think. It has taught me how to have competitiveness as well as sportsmanship, along with compassion and kindness to others. I think being an equestrian has taught me more about life than almost anything else could,” Nadine Van Zomeren commented.
Nadine Van Zomeren will attend two practice sessions with her chosen team and in July will compete in the International Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup competition in Asheville, North Carolina where five judges from across the country will judge equestrian riders from around the world.
“I have the most unbelievably amazing support team. My parents, sister Avis, grandmother Gloria Steinke and aunt Darlene Wallinga are the main people who helped me reach my goals. My barn family has also been incredible, as well as the horse world in general,” Nadine Van Zomeren said.
You can follow Nadine Van Zomeren’s story along with the rest of the riders at Timber Hills Farm on their Facebook page.