William Nalty has been riding horses practically since the day he was born. In fact, he was 6 weeks old the first time he was put on the back of a horse.
“My family said I seemed to like it right away,” William said. “Of course I don’t remember, but obviously I must have enjoyed being around horses.”
Fast-forward to the age of 5 and there was William competing in his first equestrian show.
“This is something that’s in my blood,” said William, a freshman at Metairie Park Country Day School. “I love horses and competing. It takes up a lot of my time but it’s worth it because I enjoy it so much.”
Now 15, William, who has competed in many events locally and around the country, has his sights set on what many consider one of the premier events: the 2014 United States Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup at the Blue Ridge Classic Horse Show from July 22 to July 26 in Asheville, North Carolina.
William is one of a 12-member team of young people from around the United States who will compete in a number of riding events against teams from Canada and South Africa.
According to the United States Equestrian Federation website, www.usef.org, saddle seat is a style of horseback riding within the category of English riding that is designed to show the high trotting action of certain horse breeds. The goal of the saddle seat riding style is to show off the horse’s extravagant gaits, particularly the trot.
All saddle seat riding is done on the flat, meaning that jumping is not involved.
Kelsey Shanley is the national breed and discipline affiliates representative with the USEF in Lexington, Kentucky, which sponsors the July event.
“Competing in the Saddle Seat World Cup gives riders an opportunity to represent the United States in the Saddle Seat discipline on an international level,” Shanley said. “There were 60 applicants for the 2014 U.S. team, out of which 20 from the three-gaited section and 12 from the five-gaited section were chosen to compete in team selection trials.
“The riders with the top six scores in each section were chosen to make up the 2014 U.S. Saddle Seat World Cup team. Among the applicants were the top Saddle Seat riders in the country. To be one of the 12 chosen is truly an honor.”
The athletes in the World Cup are 14 years of age and older and compete for individual scores which ultimately accumulate toward a total team score. In an effort to test their riding skills, the athletes compete on horses they are not familiar with and that are supplied by the host competition.
“You and the horse are judged on so many things,” said William, who will compete in the five-gaited section. “For instance, the judges are looking at the position of your hands, your posture in the saddle, your attire and the tack such as the bridle and the saddle.
“The five-gaited event includes walk, trot, canter, gate and rack. These are all movements the rider is doing in order for the horse to do what he or she is expected to do. It’s a lot of pressure on both the animal and the rider.”
Last year, William was a member of the newly formed U.S. Saddle Seat Young Rider Team which competed for the first time in the U.S. Saddle Seat Invitational held at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri. Competing against teams from South Africa and Canada, the U.S. team won the gold medal.
“I felt like I had just won a national championship,” William said. “It was a really great event and a good experience.”
The son of Donald Nalty Jr., and the son and stepson of Holly and James Nichols, all of Metairie, William said he practices regularly at the Audubon Park Stables.
“You have to practice a lot so I am at the stables just about every day after school and always on the weekends,” said William, who also played several positions on the Country Day football team this year including middle linebacker, wide receiver, tight end and kicker.
“Competing in saddle seat events is hard work but it’s a lot fun too. And I have made friends from all over the United States and from different parts of the world as well,” William said. “When I think about it, this sport has done so many things for me. It has helped me overcome my shyness, it has made me a more sociable person and it has given me a lot of confidence.”