WAYCROSS — Megan Merritt smiled as she rubbed Nasa’s head with care.
“He’s kind of a showoff,” she said, patting the horse gently. “I have to tell him to tone it down a little bit, but you find his tender side once you get to know him. He’s a sweetheart.”
Together, they’re a team.
Megan’s partnership with Nasa has led to success in district and state 4-H horse shows. This week, she will compete with other 4-H’ers from other Southeastern states in Raleigh.
“I don’t think we would do great if we didn’t click like we do,” Megan attested.
During the state horse show competition in early July, Megan placed fourth in barrels and flag racing and third in pole bending.
“I was really excited,” she said. “I was really proud of him and me both. We really worked hard for the past couple of weeks. He has shown a lot of improvement.”
Prior to the state competition, Megan placed third in the Texas barrells, fourth in barrells, and first in pole bending at the Southeast District Show in Williamston.
Together, they had to overcome nerves and pressure.
“Me and him kind of get pumped up,” she said. “Once you get in there, you just let loose. Sometimes you’re thinking so much that you overthink and you’ll hit a barrel or hit a pole. But once you get the hang of it, you never want to quit, you just want to keep on racing.”
During the competitions, every second counts.
Timed events such as pole bending, requires Megan and Nasa to quickly weave around poles. Along with speed, the teams must have the agility to switch leads between poles at a full gallop.
With barrel racing, Megan and Nasa are required to make a clover-leaf pattern around preset containers. It’s exciting to her, but for her mother, Jackie, it can be a little nerve-racking watching her daughter compete.
“I’ve seen other people fall off,” she pointed out. “Sometimes I just have to look away. But I’m very proud of her and I know she loves what she does.”
As a parent, she believes people should encourage their children in sports or whatever they want to do.
The 15-year-old’s journey with horses began five years ago when she began trail riding with her father, Joey.
“Riding horses is my main thing,”Megan said while discussing her horses on the farm. “I wasn’t good at sports and horses was an open window for me to start something new.”
Megan developed her skills by taking barrel lessons with Lauren Sessoms.
“She was a big role model for me,” she acknowledged.
Nasa was trained by Dexter Ammons.
Megan attends Sampson Early College High School. The sophomore is undecided on an official career path, but has an interest in working with animals or horses.
“I’ve been around them all my life, so I know them pretty well,” Megan said.
She enjoys being involved with the local 4-H program, too.
“This is the first year, I’ve shown horses for 4-H,” she said. “I think if I keep on doing it, it’s going to get me somewhere.”
By working with horses, Megan said she has learned about patience and enjoying God’s wonderful creations.
“They’ve taught me a lot over the years,” she said.
Charmae Kendall, 4-H program assistant, said they’re excited to see Megan compete on a regional level.
“It’s a great opportunity for her,” Kendall said. “These type of events are always a great opportunity them to meet people all over the Southeast.”
(Chase Jordan can be reached at 910-249-4617. Follow the paper on Twitter @SampsonInd.)