When Cammie Behnke first started riding horses, she always ended up getting thrown off.
“They were not the nicest ponies,” she said describing the horses she tried to ride when she was about 6 and living in Switzerland. “They would either buck me off, or I would be thrown off.”
After being thrown off about five times, Cammie decided to give horseback riding a break.
“It just seemed like lesson after lesson there would be a problem,” she said.
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Cammie, however, gave riding horses another shot after she moved to Durham in 2007 and was invited to a weeklong English riding horse camp at Pleasant Hill Farm in Hillsborough.
“I fell in love with horses again,” said Cammie, now 18 and a senior at Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill.
That passion and dedication to riding and competing in horse shows evolved over the years and elevated Cammie and her horse Riviera to being named high-point winners of the N.C. Hunter Jumper Association’s pre-child/adult division category in 2014.
The category is open to children and adults across the state who compete in N.C. Hunter Jumper Association classes centered on a course with about eight fences that are two-feet, six-inches high.
“Some of the classes are judged on the horse’s form, and some of the classes are on the rider’s form,” said Cammie’s trainer, Cammie Fielding.
When Cammie started riding at Pleasant Hill Farm, she was very timid, Fielding said.
Cammie, who is known as Peanut at Pleasant Hill Farm, is still timid, Fielding said, but she is also determined.
“She was a little harder to teach just because she would psych herself out at every horse show,” Fielding said.
Still, she would get on her horse time and time again and win.
Cammie, who also swims, plays soccer, tennis, the violin and sings, rides about three times a week.
Early in 2014, she identified the shows she wanted to compete in and set her sights to be in the top three in the pre-child/adult division.
Over the summer, Cammie was in third place, but not far behind second and first.
So she decided to upgrade her goal to earning one of the top two spots.
“It came to the last two shows, and she did really good at those last two shows in November,” Fielding said. In total, Cammie competed in about 15 horse shows.
Cammie said she and her 16-year-old horse click very well, but he is a hard horse to ride as his canter and trot “are not the most comfortable.”
“It is very hard to keep his attention,” she said. “Sometimes he cuts corners.”
Cammie and Fielding, along with their families, attended the N.C. Hunter Jumper Association’s Annual Awards Banquet at the Pinehurst Resort last month, and Cammie will also be featured in the national magazine “The Chronicle of the Horse.”
“I was really happy because I felt like all of our hard work paid off,” Cammie said.
Meanwhile, Cammie’s success has inspired some of the about 75 other kids that Fielding teaches.
“I think it is neat because my other students look at her as a role model,” Fielding said. “I think they are taking this 2015 year more seriously because they saw her do it last year.”
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