A former Quitman resident is part of a Texas A&M national championship team which ended up at the White House being honored by President Donald Trump in November.
Sarah Kate Grider, daughter of Susie Grider of Sulphur Springs and Walter Grider of Cartwright, was a senior member of the Texas Aggie Equestrian team who won the National Collegiate Equestrian Association title defeating fellow Southeastern Conference foe Georgia 11-5 in the national final. The Aggies shut out Texas Christian University 16-0 in the semi-final which was held in Waco at Extraco Events Center this year. The Aggies opened with a 13-2 win over Delaware State and a 14-1 victory against Oklahoma State.
Grider was part of the reining event with three other teammates. The reining event is unique as reining patterns include spins and sliding stops performed by the horse and rider. In reining events, a score starts at 70 and goes lower or higher depending on the quality of the ride. Riders perform movements including fast circles, slow circles and sliding spots. Going off pattern results in a zero. Over or under spinning by more than just a quarter of a turn can also result in a zero.
A unique thing about this competition is that riders are assigned horses. They do not compete on their own horses and only learn which horse they are riding after arriving at the competition location.
“Each school in the competitions brings horses. In our final round I don’t believe we even used any horses from the SEC (Southeast Conference),” Grider stated. “I believe most of the horses when we went against Georgia in the final were from the Big 12. It’s tough on the horses, but they are all willing and want to please you. They have to deal with many riders. That’s the point of our competition, we are supposed to get on any horse and make them look good.”
Her coach, Tana McKay, was proud of her team. In a press release after the championship McKay said, “This is a coach’s dream, to have all of their athletes at the top of their game. The team dug deep and that is exactly what they needed to do to win. I am very proud of them.”
Grider started in equestrian competitions in 2004 when she was just a young girl. “I started showing my horse in 2004. I got to compete all over Texas. I used to show in 4-H and in National Reined Cow Horse Association events,” Grider said.
She has always been around horses. “My dad was a trainer. I was on top of a horse before I could walk,” I guess I got my first horse when I was about two or three. We had a horse, Chili Pepper, who my Dad made a video to sell, but he decided I needed a horse and he became mine,” Grider said. “Me and Chili Pepper grew up together and he taught me a lot. I would not have gone to college and ridden if not for him and Dad. He’s about to be 18, he’s still sassy and doesn’t act his age.”
Grider had been riding and competing for many years when she got to Texas A&M. She spent a year at North Central Texas College in Gainesville after graduating from Rains High School where her mother worked for the district.
“I was on scholarship there and took my own horse to show for a year. I did not understand the whole recruiting process at first for equestrian teams. In college they recruit for the equestrian team like they do for football or any other team. I understand now they start looking at sophomores and freshmen in high school.”
Grider decided to contact A&M. “I didn’t know about all of the recruiting process until the second semester of my senior year in high school. So I contacted A&M and she had already given out her scholarship money for that year. I decided to go to a junior college and get my feet under me and get used to college,” Grider explained. “In the summer of 2012 A&M hosted their first equestrian camp. I got to go to that and that was when the coach got to see me ride in person on school horses. A week later she called and offered me a scholarship if I wanted to transfer and it was then I got an athletic scholarship to A&M.”
She had four years of eligibility to compete at the collegiate level. Grider has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture communications and journalism. She also has certification as an event planner.
Competing and going to class was time consuming. “We had to make sure we went to class and it’s not just practice on a horse during the week. We also have team meetings and study halls we have to go to,” Grider said. “We actually go all year. We start in September and go until Thanksgiving and we start back in January and go through April.”
She says her dad has been a big inspiration.
“We do share a passion for horses, but he never pushed me and I appreciate that. I have seen too many kids be pressured by their parents and my mom and dad have been great about letting me pursue what I wanted to do,” Grider added. “I have just always loved it and never felt pushed into anything.”
On the team’s trip to the White House, Grider got to meet the president. “It was actually pretty cool. I got to meet him and shake his hand. I was already working six days a week when we got to go,” Grider said. “The team called to let me know about being invited to the White House. It was great to be able to do one more trip with the team. We got to meet the President and go to the Oval Office.”
What is her favorite memory from her time at A&M? “My senior class, our record that first year was two and seven. We got beat out the very first round of nationals. The greatest thing for me was getting to see my class go from the very lowest the program had ever been in its history to making history at nationals,” Grider contended. “Our total score was 54 to eight. We only lost eight points that whole meet and it was unheard of and we shut out TCU 16-0. We were the first team that didn’t have a bye the first round to win nationals. It was amazing to be a part of.”
Grider’s love and passion for horses continues. She currently works in Pilot Point at a horse training facility. “I’m just trying to learn all I can from my boss right now. I live there in a house on the property,” Grider said. “I graduated from college and I had a place to move and I had a job. So many of my friends had no idea what they were going to do. I’m happy to be where I am.”
Grider has had quite a year including a team national championship, a trip to the White House, getting to meet President Trump, graduating from A&M and working at her passion, horses. Dreams do come ture.