A common love for many young girls is horses. While many may never know the joy of owning their own horse, Gabi and Elli Eisenzimmer of Langdon do and love to show their horses to the world. Maria Eisenzimmer is a proud show mom who takes her daughters and their two show horses not only around the region but around the nation to horse shows to exhibit their training. The show life all started when the oldest Eisenzimmer daughter, Madi, found a horse she was interested in at trainer/owner Krista Montgomery’s MonteRay Ranch in Manvel.
By Melissa Anderson
“Their older sister, Madi, is who started the horse thing eight years ago. She found a horse that she was interested in who happened to live at the MonteRay Ranch. We traveled to Manvel, bought the horse and here we are,” Maria said.
Montgomery has worked with adults and children, striving to create champions for over 35 years. She is committed to teaching good and safe horsemanship skills to beginners and experienced riders alike. She has worked with Elli and Gabi since each was 6 years old.
“They have become like part of the family,” Montgomery said.
The Eisenzimmers show their American Quarter horses for only five months, April to October. The rest of the time, the girls and Montgomery are hard at work training for the next show season. They are in the barn with their horses nearly every day working with them to improve. Some days can be trying for everyone involved.
“I use a good combination of praise and tough love. I have to be tough with them sometimes to get the performance out of them and their horses to be able to compete at such a high level. Both girls practice hard, and both girls listen well,” Montgomery shared.
“The success you earn during show season depends on the work you put in during the off season,” Maria Eisenzimmer agreed.
The work that the girls and their horses put in begins with just taking care of and respecting each other. The horses depend upon their owners for their care just as any other domesticated animal. Gabi and Elli both know that having horses isn’t just a “when you want to” activity but are reminded by Montgomery that horses are not machines.
“They are 1200 lbs of living, breathing animal with a mind of their own. We can ‘suggest’ that they go along with our wishes and then practice, practice and then repeat,” Montgomery quipped.
The training the Eisenzimmers and their horses have was reflected by the performance that was done on the show circuit. The work doesn’t end on show day for either horse or owner. Eli explained that it is common to be up at 5 a.m. and show until midnight.
“At the big shows you have to get up in the middle of the night to practice! But it’s all worth it,” Elli said.
This year, Elli and her partner, KTS Zippin Sonny Dee, aka “Oliver”, a North Dakota bred horse, were named Novice Youth All-Around for 13 and under. She also was awarded two year-end champion and three reserve champion awards. She and her horse were also ranked 25th in the nation in L3 Halter Geldings and 31st in the nation in L1 Novice Trail.
“My proudest moment was when Oliver & I won L1 Open Trail at the Region 2 championships in Rapid City! This class was against adults and trainers. I was so proud of my horse and how he completed a perfect pattern for me!” Eli shared.
In explaining how the L1 Open Trail is judged, Montgomery compared the event to the game of Operation. Elli is judged on maneuvering through a huge course of elevated poles and bridges. The arena’ are always crowded with many difficult obstacles to walk, trot, lope, side pass and back up through.
“If you touch too many things or, at some big shows, touch anything, your score will be too low to advance. It takes nerves of steel, a horse that in all cases will wait for your cues and a rider that can communicate to the horse in the most quiet, non-threatening manner,” Montgomery said.
Gabi and her horse, Zip Around Potential a.k.a. “Zippy”, also had a very successful year. They were awarded four top three placings in the small fry division at the annual North Dakota Quarter Horse Association (NDQHA) awards banquet held in Fargo. Gabi’s highlight of the year was being named Showmanship Circuit Champion at the Mayflower in Des Moines, Iowa, this past summer. Gabi also won the Reserve All Around High Point for her age division at the event as well.
“Showmanship is like dancing with a partner. She communicates her cues to the horse, and they follow her lead in a very synchronized way, showing the walk, trot, turning, backing and standing square,” Montgomery explained
“Gabi and her horse, Zippy, have perfected this class with hours upon hours of practice. Gabi is a good showman that draws judges in with her beautiful outfits and smiling, pleasant and attentive demeanor. I am so proud of how far she has come in her confidence amongst the judges!”
Both Gabi and Eli are active members of the youth organization of NDQHA. While Eli was competing Gabi was working hard behind the scenes to make the organization thrive. Her proudest moment of the season came from many moments.
“All of the youth fundraisers we did to raise money for our youth organization,” Gabi shared.
Both girls traveled to Oklahoma City in August to compete at the Youth World Show. Elli competed in Halter, Trail, Barrels, and Poles. But it was Gabi who kept the spirits of not only her sister up but the entire North Dakota youth team as cheer coordinator.
“I just tried to stay positive throughout the week! I was the one that helped get all the horses ready for their classes. I enjoyed being around all my friends from Team North Dakota.”
Montgomery noted that Elli and Gabi compete for these honors with over 21,000 other youth in the American Quarter Horse Association. Members come from the US and several other countries. The AQHA is the largest breed registry in the world.
“All in all, both girls proved to me that they belong at the big shows and served notice that they have arrived,” Montgomery said.
Now that the 2018 season has come to an end, the Eisenzimmers and Montgomery are already on to training for next season. Eli and her horse, Oliver, will work on becoming more consistent in their trail pattern. Gabi will be moving up to the 13 & under classes in the next show season. She plans to improve her loping skills and do her best to reach that world stage.
“My goal is to be on the [NDQHA] team in 2020!” Gabi added.
Being a horse show mom was never part of Maria’s ideas when she considered what sports her children might participate in. Now that her girls are well into their show careers, she can see how rewarding horses can be and also how similar the sport is to the more mainstream sports.
“Sometimes things don’t go as planned! Competing in the sport of equine events is just as competitive, if not more competitive, than your usual sports. Not only do my kids have to worry about themselves ,they also have to make sure their horse is in shape and ready for the next event,” Maria said.
Overall, the Eisenzimmers agree that this show season was an amazing experience topped off by going to the Youth Worlds as part of Team North Dakota. The girls would like to thank their trainers Krista, Ashley and Melissa of MonteRay Ranch and a special thank you to their parents and grandparents.