our youth: AG STARS Morgan Miller — Riding ‘Strait’ While Conquering Fear “Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.” — George S. Patton By TARA BARTON M 92 organ Miller’s mind raced as she prepared to ride into the arena. As a lifelong lover of horses and an experienced rider, the Garner resident knew what to do; yet, her nerves still surfaced before every show. That day in Shartlesville, PA, 10-year-old Morgan won the top youth earner at the Pennsylvania Cutting Horse Association Memorial Cutting. She earned her first buck- le, and secured the number three spot for the junior youth rookie of the year division worldwide. The bond between a girl and her horse cannot easily be broken, and lessons learned in the saddle will last a lifetime. Thousands of kids just like Morgan learn and grow from their experiences with cutting horses every year. Morgan’s mother, Jessyca Miller, said Morgan’s love for horses began at an early age. “From the time she was 2, she was cleaning stalls,” Jessyca said. “She’s always wanted to take care of the horses. It’s never been a chore.” Morgan said her grandfather, Marty Miller, helped shape the foundation of her cutting career by gifting her a retired cutting horse to learn on. “He helps me a lot,” Morgan said. “He’s always given me horses to work on.” A few years later, Morgan’s career began at just 7 years old when she showed for the first time on a horse named Strait CD, “George” for short. Like most things in life, Morgan’s road to success did not come without challenges. When Jethro, a horse from her past, began acting up, it shook Morgan’s confidence. “When we would start loping, he would start hopping and jumping and running to the side,” Morgan said. “I would get scared and jump right off of him.” Jessyca said Morgan’s experience with Jethro discour- aged Morgan from riding for a period of time. “She did go through six months when she was terri- fied to ride,” Jessyca said. “The trainers told her grandpa, ‘eventually she will want to come back.’” Morgan did come back, in a big way. When her grandpa needed an extra hand to help ride horses, Morgan said she put her fears aside to return to the arena. “I knew my grandpa needed help, so I just kind of sacrificed and rode for the point of the show,” Morgan said. “I got back on George and started riding him, and started trusting him again.” That perseverance paid off, and Morgan’s confidence in the saddle returned. Today, she and George share a close bond that continues to shape Morgan’s values. Working with horses involves caring for their needs, and Morgan takes caring for George very seriously. “First you have to make sure they’re fed, their feet aren’t hurt and that they have their shoes,” Morgan said. “After you’re done riding you have to make sure they’re groomed and bathed. It’s good for responsibility because you know that you need to have them fed and groomed.” This special bond does not end with the work day; Morgan and George spend time together having fun as well. “He’s my best friend. Even if I’m doing homework and I want to read a paper to someone, I can go out and read it to him,” Morgan said. “We also like to go rock hunting, and chasing after rabbits.” Although Morgan might choose to spend all her time with George if she had the chance, she understands that her success in the arena depends upon her success in the classroom. “I’m not allowed to show unless I have all good grades,” Morgan said. “If I get anything below standards, I have to take a week off of riding, but I still have to take care of my horses. Grades really come first.” Morgan displayed her leadership skills in the saddle during a horseback ride on a recent field trip to Camp Grady Spruce at Possum Kingdom Lake. Ray Heath, Morgan’s science and social studies teacher, said Morgan reassured her classmates when they were scared and unsure about riding the horses. “Morgan is definitely a leader,” Heath said. “She is confident, and she definitely takes charge when she needs to. She has a lot of self-confidence, which shows in her work.” In the future, Morgan said she dreams of showing at the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth in the youth divi- sion of the Summer Spectacular. Despite her love for showing cutting horses, Morgan said she does not see herself going professional. “I don’t really think I want it to be my job, but I think it’ll be a fun thing to do when I’m older and have spare time and a ranch,” Morgan said. “I think I want to be a vet for large animals.” A famous quote by Winston Churchill hangs on Morgan’s wall at home: “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” Although Churchill’s famous quote does not directly mention girls like Morgan, it certainly applies; the bond between a girl and her horse enriches the lives of both the horse and the rider.