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Gutsy duo feel behooved to win

A teenager sweet-talks her "partner" to greatness in equestrian jumping, a risky and difficult sport.

By ELISABETH DYER, Times Staff Writer
Published February 8, 2008


Morgan rides Donegal six days a week when he's in the Ballast Point area at Hunter Oaks Stables with his trainers.
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[Photo by Barbara Mayer]
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[Photo by Kim Wiley]
Morgan Mayer, 15, and Donegal. 12, won the 2007 Southeast jumping award in the children's division.

BALLAST POINT - She signals him with a smooch and they're off.

Fifteen-year-old Morgan Mayer and her horse, Donegal, become one. They gallop. They maneuver tight corners. They leap walls.

"It's the best feeling in the world," Morgan said. "It's like you're flying."

Their agility and speed took the duo to the top of several Florida circuits and won them the 2007 championship for the Southeast U.S. children's jumper division.

The goal of equestrian jumping is to complete the course quickly while knocking down the fewest fences or walls, which are about 3 feet 6 inches high.

In equestrian circles, "you're known as the crazy ones," said Morgan, who started riding when she was 4 and jumping at 7. "It takes guts."

Not only for Morgan, but for Donegal. He is now on vacation in Ocala with old horse friends, being massaged, having acupuncture and getting fat on hay and grain.

Donegal, named for a town in Ireland where he was born, is a 12-year-old Irish sport horse.

"Some people say jumping is a sport and your horse is your equipment," Morgan said. Donegal is much more to her. "I trust Donegal so much. He's like my partner, like a brother."

Morgan grew up on Davis Islands and is a student at Tampa Preparatory School, where she plays soccer and acts in the theater program. She also plays piano and practices yoga.

She rides Donegal six days a week when he's in the Ballast Point area at Hunter Oaks Stables with trainers Jimmy Rivetts and Trish Vogel.

Among horse riders, Morgan has a reputation for her mouth. Many riders are silent. But the smooch that activates Donegal is followed by a litany.

"Pick your feet up! Okay, easy around this turn!"

He wants to please her.

And he knows about the mints in her pocket. And at least 3 pounds of carrots for the ride home.

Elisabeth Dyer can be reached at edyer@sptimes.com or 226-3321.

[Last modified February 7, 2008, 07:58:37]


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