Like many children, Baylor’s Dr. Nancy Moreno loved horses when she was young. She described herself as horse-crazy and dreamed of owning one. She wasn’t able to fulfill her childhood dream until she became an adult with children of her own. Now, she not only is a proud horse owner, but also competes in horseback riding shows with resounding success.
“About 30 years ago, when I moved to Houston and my own children were young, my daughter wanted to start horseback riding. Since I’d always wanted to ride horses, I thought I would give it a try too and so we started taking lessons together,” said Moreno, associate provost of faculty development and institutional research and associate director of the Center for Educational Outreach.
They ended up picking someone randomly out of the phone book who turned out to be a nationally recognized trainer of American Saddlebred horses, which is one of the oldest breeds in the United States. Ironically, Moreno found out many years later that her great grandfather in Minneapolis had owned and shown American Saddlebreds.
For both Moreno and her daughter, the more time they spent taking lessons, the better they became and then it was only natural for them to start training for shows and competing. They even competed against each other on and off over the years. Although Moreno’s daughter now lives in New Orleans, she also still rides and competes.
Although she would like to devote more time to riding, Moreno typically only has time to ride on the weekends, and she competes in several horse shows annually. Currently, she has four horses – Santana Moss, The Sherman Show, Nut This Nut That and Call Me Nutty. She rides and practices with all of them, but is hoping to start showing Nut This Nut That and Call Me Nutty at some point this year. Show horses are judged on performance, manners, presence, quality and conformation.
Riding is something that anyone at any age can do, she said. In an individual event known as a class, there could be an 8-year-old competing against an 80-year-old. Riding also is one of the few sports where men and women compete equally against each other, and in some divisions, which are different ways of showing, amateurs and professionals compete against each other.
“I ride under the supervision of a trainer and a coach just like you would for any sport. Most of my riding is structured and it’s progressing toward a goal, which is great. The whole notion that you’re trying to improve and perform at a higher level with your horse is really rewarding,” she said. “The continuous improvement is what keeps people riding.”
Over her years of competing, Moreno and her horses have garnered a number of awards. One of her horses that she rode for a number of years, Jigsaw Johnny, was a high point champion in four different divisions, both riding and driving. This year, The Sherman Show was the Texas High Point Champion for Western Country Pleasure for American Saddlebreds. He also was the American Saddlebred Horse Association Region Champion as well as their local club champion. Additionally, The Sherman Show was the western pleasure reserve grand champion at the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show this year and in previous years, he has been the division grand champion.
One of Moreno’s favorite aspects of riding is that it has afforded her the opportunity to meet new people and make lasting friendships.
“Some of my most significant friendships have come from the horse community. We share a passion for the horses and for the community that we are part of,” she said.
– By Julia Bernstein