CCHS senior riding off to collegeApr 30, 2022 10:39AM ● By Catherine Garrett
By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]
Draper’s Ashlyn Montague was that “little girl that loved horses” so what began as riding lessons on a pony named Charlie when she was four years old is taking the Corner Canyon High senior to the University of Minnesota-Crookston to compete collegiately.
“I’m really excited to ride in college,” she said. “It wasn’t until this last year that we realized this was an option so I was a little late in the game, but I found a place with a great riding team and with a great equine science program as well.”
“We are thrilled to welcome Ashlyn to the Golden Eagle Equestrian program,” said UMN Crookston head coach Kayla Hanson. “Ashlyn brings a wealth of experience showing within the American Paint Horse Association competing in the all-around events. Her versatility in riding and strong ability to adapt will be a significant asset to our team and suit the collegiate format perfectly.”
Mandi Montague, Ashlyn’s mother, said that her daughter’s “ability to get on any horse and get a good ride out of them” caught the eye of Hanson to add to her UMN-Crookston program. “In collegiate riding, you draw an unknown horse at your competition and have four minutes to warm them up and then go out and complete a pattern on them that you are judged on,” said Mandi Montague. “This is a strength that Ashlyn has developed over the years from riding a lot of different horses in a lot of different disciplines, riding difficult horses, and training a young horse.”
Ashlyn’s parents, Ken and Mandi Montague, went “all in” for Mandi’s and Ashlyn’s shared passion for horses in buying horse property in Draper along with two horses in 2009, when Ashlyn was five. Two years later, she won a blue ribbon in the 4-H Mini Riders Program in showmanship and then she transitioned from English-style riding and jumping to the western side of things with rail, showmanship, barrel racing, pole bending, and speed events.
When she was 10, she claimed the Grand Champion in Showmanship with her American quarter horse, (AQHA) Jasmine, while also qualifying for her first 4-H state event. At the age of 14, she presented Cosette, her American paint horse (APHA), in western and English disciplines and the Montagues then went on to purchase an APHA yearling named Mae for Ashlyn to train “on her own from the ground up,” according to her mom, over the next couple of years.
Ashlyn has continued to win numerous awards, regardless of which horse she was riding, most recently being named the 2021 Overall Grand Champion for the state 4-H Show as well as the Salt Lake County High Point Show with Mae.
“Ashlyn has become an amazing athlete and horseman and is so passionate about what she loves,” Mandi Montague said. “Riding horses is hard physically. You don't just sit there while the horse does all the work. She has to work out and stay healthy and fit for both herself and her horse. And it's hard mentally too; she has to learn to tune into the slightest emotion she is having and control it because her horse can sense and feel everything she is feeling as well.”
Ashlyn rides her horses five to six days a week and feels that consistency has been a key to her successes in the arena “to keep both of us where we’re supposed to be.” “I’ve also learned a lot of patience,” she said. “It takes a lot of that when you’re working with an animal that has mind of its own. A horse is not like a football that will just go where you tell it to go.”
In addition to showing horses, being a part of rodeo queen courts and competing in equestrian vaulting, Ashlyn has traveled around the country in leadership roles as a horse ambassador. She is currently the president of the Utah Jr. Paint Horse Club, a 4-H state ambassador and a national director for the American Junior Paint Horse Association.
“I have loved to see Ashlyn develop over the years, going from being really frustrated after a bad ride when she was young to looking for the small wins in each ride now,” Mandi Montague said. “Even if the ride isn't what she wanted, she will focus on what went right and what small wins she was able to bring out with her horse in that pattern. Horseback riding has really taught her self-confidence, patience, dedication and hard work.”
Ashlyn Montague dreams of remaining in the horse world in college and beyond with hopes of becoming a horse trainer.
For more information on the Utah 4-H program, visit www.extension.usu.edu/utah4h/.