When Greta Hemmerlein was 3 years old, her family lived near a horse farm, and whenever they would drive by, she would tell her mother she wanted to ride horses.
“I begged my mom every day to ride horses,” Hemmerlein said. “My mom told me I had to be 5 to ride, so that shut me up for awhile. But then on my fifth birthday, I was like, ‘Mom, I want to ride horses.’ So she let me.”
Twelve years later, Hemmerlein is a world champion. Earlier this month, the Columbus East senior-to-be was named world champion for Palomino Bred Youth Hunter In Hand for ages 18-and-under at the Palomino Horse Breeders of America World Championship Show in Springfield, Illinois.
This was Hemmerlein’s first time competing in a World Championship.
“I was really shocked,” Hemmerlein said. “I was beside myself. I kept on joking with my mom that we should at least come home with a T-shirt. I had very minimal expectations. It was more just for the experience.”
Hemmerlein started riding at The Woods Equestrian Center when she was 9. She became involved in 4H and started showing horses through that organization.
Last September, Hemmerlein started riding Moglie, a gelding owned by Missy Clark. But it took awhile for the pair to click.
“I think it’s hard when they start with a new horse,” said Vicki Perkins, Hemmerlein’s instructor at The Woods. “We always tell them that first year is a huge learning curve, so the expectation should be pretty low. It’s just a period of time getting to know each other. I would say it was a rough start. The expectation was low and focusing on progress, not placing. So we were shocked and surprised.”
Victoria Schwartz, another East graduate who shows horses, has served as kind of a mentor to Hemmerlein and went with her to the World Championships.
“(Horses) can do anything they want,” Schwartz said. “(Moglie) was kind of a challenging horse when we first got him. We were kind of worried there for a minute that he wasn’t going to work, and then all of a sudden, everything just really clicked for the two of them. They are the best pair.”
In addition to the world championship in Hunter In Hand, which is a halter class, Hemmerlein won Reserve World Champion in Palomino Bred Hunter Under Saddle, a riding class where the rider and horse are judged on the movement of the horse. She also competed in Showmanship and Hunt Seat Equitation.
Greta’s mother April said Moglie has learned to show both Western disciplines and English disciplines.
“When he came to the barn, he had not done any of the English disciplines, which is what she won first place in,” April said. “They couldn’t even ride around the arena in a circle, he was so inexperienced. They spent a lot of time working on him. A lot of these things that she did with him were new. He had not done Hunter Under Saddle at all before that. He’s a 6-year-old horse, so that is relatively young, compared to the other horses she had been riding.”
At 6-foot-1, Greta is one of the taller horse showmanship competitors. But instead of playing basketball or volleyball, which her height would have been well suited for, she has focused on horses.
“The nice thing about Moglie is, Moglie is a very tall horse, and a very large horse,” April said. “We were looking for horses that would fit with her because she’s tall, and Moglie, while he’s young, he’s a very large and tall horse. He has a great personality, and he has a great ability to learn. He is funny. He’s just a really good horse, and you can just tell that he adores Greta.”
A National Honor Society member, Greta is on East’s academic team for math and science. She is leaning toward studying engineering or something in science and is looking for a small school that has engineering and an equestrian team.
“I plan to do this as long as I can,” Greta said.