GREENSBURG – Many may not realize it, but Decatur County is home to a champion equestrian competitor.
Doug Mohr, 23, first started showing quarter horses through 4-H when he was in the fifth grade at North Decatur Elementary School.
He’s continued showing and working with the animals ever since, including throughout his years at North Decatur Junior/Senior High School and his time as a student at Ball State University in Muncie.
“I’ve been showing horses for about 13 years,” he said. “I got my start at the Decatur County Fair.”
For the uninitiated, “showing” a quarter horse, according to Mohr, is a broad term, which has a range of connotations depending on the grade-level, age and skill level of the participant.
For this article, Mohr narrowed his explanation of the term to the activities in which he participated during his four years on the equestrian team at Ball State.
“Showing a horse,” he explained, “involves riding it and being judged on different techniques. The judges focus on how well you handle the horse and how skilled you are as a rider overall.”
Competitors, he continued, are expected to run the horse through certain “gaits” at every competition.
Those gaits include various combinations of walks, jogs, and canters and lopes. There are also backing maneuvers and spins and combinations thereof.
“We’re judged on how well we can take the horse through certain patterns and combinations,” Mohr said. “Those give the judge an idea of how well we ride, of how skilled we are.”
While the process may sound fairly straight forward, there’s one very big catch.
“In college, we don’t use our own horses,” Mohr explained. “We don’t even know the horses we ride and show.”
The quarter horses ridden in a college competition, Mohr continued, are owned by the school at which each competition is held. Before a competition, each participant draws a number corresponding to a random horse. The number drawn is the competitor’s horse for that show.
“We’ve never ridden or even met the horse we show at competition,” Mohr stressed. “They give us minimal information, which means we have to handle the horse to the best of our ability, and that’s a big factor in how they judge our riding skill.”
There are two main styles of quarter horse showing, Mohr further explained – Western and English. Mohr shows Western style, which includes wearing a cowboy hat, boots with spurs and a western saddle.
There are also five skill levels into which riders are categorized: Beginning, intermediate, novice, advanced and open. The “open” level is the highest skill level and that’s the category in which Mohr competes.
“Schools who participate in collegiate showing,” Mohr explained, “are grouped according to regions and zones.”
Ball State is part of Region 1, Zone 7.
“The way it’s broken down,” Mohr explained, “is a lot like the conference structure in college basketball.”
For the 2012-2013 collegiate season, Mohr was the “high point rider” in Region 1, meaning he accrued the most points of all competitors across all the various universities and shows within his region for the season.
“I was very fortunate this past year,” he said.
In addition to be high point rider for his region, Mohr was also Region 1 champion for the 2012-2013 season.
Also similar to collegiate basketball, March is a big month in quarter horse competition. It’s the month when tournament” season starts.
Mohr started his post season at a competition at St. Mary’s of the Woods College in Terre Haute. He performed well enough there to move on in late March to the National Semi-finals in Syracuse, N.Y., where he qualified for the National Championships from May 2 to May 5 in Harrisburg, Pa.
“I finished third in the Open Western Horsemanship [at the National Championships],” he said.
Also at the National Championships, Mohr competed against 26 other high point riders from various regions around the country, finishing eighth overall.
With his performance at the National Championships, Mohr earned himself an invitation to the American Quarter Horse Association’s (AQHA) World Show in November.
That competition will mark his final show of collegiate eligibility; it’s the first time he’s qualified for the prestigious show.
“I’ll be one of 16 riders competing in the AQHA show,” Mohr said. “I’m the first rider from Ball State ever selected. It’s held in Oklahoma City.”
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” he said, “a dream come true for sure.”
Mohr offered special thanks to his parents, Mark and Kathy Mohr, for unwavering support throughout his career showing quarter horses.
“My parents,” he said, “have come to every show since I was a kid, and I want to thank them for that support. They’ve traveled all around the state and region and the country with me as I’ve competed in college. Not many riders can look out into the audience every single time and know that kind of support is out there for them. It’s meant a lot to me.”
No matter where he finishes in the November competition, Mohr said he’s had a great run. He completed an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science in May and hopes to begin working soon on a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy.
He’ll never completely abandon quarter horse showing, though.
“No matter what happens,” he said, “Oklahoma will be my last show as a collegiate rider, but horses will always be where I turn to have fun and compete aside from my career. I’ll still show and train and help other riders learn to ride and show. I’ll always be involved in the sport.”
Contact: Rob Cox 812-663-3111 x7011