“I came to Congress telling myself that just a callback would suffice but of course, like anyone else here, I wanted more. We were up every night for those 3 AM rides and they definitely paid off this week!” she says.

The Little Mare That Could: How a $1,400 Mare Won a Reserve Congress Championship

There is a common misconception that to win at the Quarter Horse Congress, your horse must cost more than your house, your saddle more than your car and so on. While many times the big winners are the ones you see on the magazine covers, sometimes a clean run is all it takes to win the top spot. For Do-It-Yourself youth exhibitor, Maryah Cugno and her mare, GVRZipsValntineHeart, also known as Sadie, they proved that hard work and perseverance pays off.

Seven years ago, Maryah purchased Sadie from a small barn sale in Vassalboro, Maine for $1,400. “She was an extremely green three-year-old with bad rain rot and bad feet, but we were drawn to her for some reason,” says Maryah.

Though she claims it took her Mom several months to decide if they could afford the mare or not, the main deciding factor was if the mare would be safe enough for her 11 year old daughter at the time.

“The morning before my birthday, I woke up to a note saying we were going to pick her up. It was the best day of my life,” she recalls.

Maryah CugnoThough it may have been love at first sight, Maryah also adds that there were some bumps in the road that she and Sadie had to overcome. “Sadie went through a stage where she wanted to buck me off just about every day… and she would!” she exclaims. Being the dedicated young rider that she was, Maryah believed that this was just a stage.

In 2011, Sadie even flipped over on top of Maryah, breaking her jaw, but she still could not bring herself to sell the mare. After overcoming this accident, when things seemed to finally come together, Sadie was diagnosed with an ovarian tumor. This took a whole show season away from the pair while she recovered.

It was not until this year when Maryah went to trainer Liberty Santagata’s farm in York, Maine for an internship when she decided to make the 2016 Congress one of her goals for the year.

Maryah CugnoEven though Maryah trained the mare herself up until this point, she found Liberty able to help her with some of the issues that she had been having. “With Liberty’s guidance, we worked hard showing all year and fixing things at every show to build up to this,” she says.

At the Congress, Maryah and Sadie competed in the Youth Performance Mares along with the Novice Youth 14-18 Trail, Horsemanship, and Equitation. The team made the semi-finals in the horsemanship and ended up Reserve Congress Champions in the Hunt Seat Equitation class.

“I came to Congress telling myself that just a callback would suffice, but of course, like anyone else here, I wanted more. We were up every night for those 3 AM rides and they definitely paid off this week!” she says.

Beating out that common misconception, Maryah says that she proved to not only everyone else, but also herself, that the price tag on the mare didn’t determine her success. Her success came from the years of hard work and fixing their mistakes that made her just as good, if not better, than the rest of them.

 

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