by Cindy Reich

At the Las Vegas National Horse Show in November 2016, it looked to be quite competitive in the $1,500, 1m Jumper Classic. Kristin Hardin had just completed her round, beating JJ Atkinson, Champion Canadian FEI rider, by just a hair. Rich Fellers (FEI World Champion, Bronze Medal Pan American games rider) rode a good round, but was sitting at second to Kristin. And then it happened — a twelve-year-old girl on a purebred Arabian gelding smoked all of them “and blew our times to smithereens,” Hardin said, laughing! Which was fine with Kristin, as it was none other than her daughter Tyler Holiday Hardin on AM Zipy Sharp Shooter (AM Power Raid x AM Zippy Handsom) who showed everyone how it’s done!

“Zipy is really a pony size at about 14.2 hands,” Kristin said. “Yet he has a lot of speed and agility which can give him an advantage in some classes.” Advantage, yes, but competing against Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods who might be 17 hands? Clearly, this small grey powerhouse has made the jumping fraternity sit up and take notice. “Most people on the jumping circuit have memories of riding Arabians or being around Arabians and are nostalgic about it,” said Kristin, “but they don’t usually take them seriously as jumpers.” Yet Hardin has been showing the jumping world the attributes of purebred Arabians for years — most notably with Showgun PGN (Showkayce x PGN Solitaire) bred by Carol Steppe.

Tyler, who has been jumping and showing since the age of five, has proven herself to be a fierce competitor with an uncanny feel for a horse. Not only is she besting the pros (with an Arabian, no less!) she recently competed at an Invitational International Children’s Jumping competition in Bogota, Columbia. The riders had to draw lots for their horse, and out of 62 horses available, 57 horses were used, which means it was a big competition. True to form, out of all the competitors, Tyler emerged victorious with a horse she had never ridden.

“We were allowed to ride our horse the day before to see if we could get along,” said Tyler. “There was an opportunity to change your horse if you didn’t like it, but I was fine with the horse I had.” I asked her if she had any fear going into the arena. “I’m not fearful except when I fall off, and that doesn’t happen very often,” Tyler replied. “The only thing that was a bit different at this show was that the jumps, at 1m 15, were bigger than I was used to. The Columbians also ride differently. They just go forward like crazy and are very fast. We tend to ride a little slower and more carefully. However, the Columbians are really nice people and I had a really good time!”

Tyler and Zipy have changed quite a few minds in the jumping world. “Sometimes I hear people making fun of us behind our back when we go into the ring,” said Tyler, “but after we come out with the win, they are much more complimentary!” And what about Zipy’s personality? “Zipy is a bit of a coward on the ground. You have to move slowly and carefully. However, once you get on his back he is fearless. All he wants to do is go forward, go fast, and jump!” Sounds very much like his lionhearted rider! 

When asked what her future goals were, Tyler replied, “To beat my mother in a Grand Prix!” By the looks of it, it won’t be long!