The big payoff


A young girl’s hard work and love for horses has brought her to the forefront of international competition

By Abby Walton

For many kids, one of the fastest things they can learn to ride is a bike. But for Faith Robbins of Carmel, that wasn’t the case. She wanted to learn how to ride something a bit bigger.

“When Faith was young, we would take vacations at a ranch in Colorado,” said her mother, Lori Robbins. “You had to be at least 6-years-old to ride the horses, but at age 4 she talked one of the trainers into letting her ride.”

Faith’s mother said the night before, they’d been to a rodeo and her daughter couldn’t take her eyes off the people who rode the bucking broncos.

“Well, the horse she was riding must’ve been bit by a fly because it started to lay down and roll over onto its back,” Lori Robbins said. “Here I am thinking this horse is going to roll over on my daughter. However to my amazement and the trainer’s, she mimicked those cowboys and got off the horse within seconds, totally unharmed,” Lori said.

At that point it was pretty apparent that Faith’s love for riding was more than just a phase.

“She was such a daredevil and even at 6, wanted to become a barrel racer,” her mother said.

But living in Indiana meant very few rodeos and even fewer people who taught that style of riding.

Lori Robbins said her daughter knew she was meant to ride, and Faith kept at her parents until they found the Select Show Horses training facility in Sheridan.

Mentally and physically strong

Owned and operated by Dalton Budd and Kellie Wendling, Select Horses is one of the premiere Arabian and Half-Arabian training, showing and breeding facilities in the country. In 2007, at just 7-years-old, Faith went from wanting to barrel race to learning how to ride saddle-seat.

This type of horseback riding is rooted in the English style of riding. The focus is to show off the high trotting action of certain breeds of horses.

As an example, Wendling advises people to picture the way the Queen of England’s horses move down the streets of London. With their legs rising up high and their steady movements, saddle-seat is all about the way a horse and its rider carry themselves while doing very specific movements.

“It’s not easy because a person has to be mentally and physically strong,” Wendling said. Faith was and still is up for the challenge.

“She’s such a talented kid. She puts in so much hard work and is really focused,” Wendling said.

Committed and passionate

This year, 14-year-old Faith Robbins started her freshman year at Cathedral High School. Cramming in training time with a high school workload has been a transition.

“I really have to use my study hall,” she said.

Once school is done, Faith heads to the barn and trains for the rest of the day.

“I sometimes even head over there on Saturdays,” she said.

It’s this type of dedication that’s made Faith one of the top saddle-seat riders in the country. Last month, Faith won her age division in the National Show Horse Finals.

“For a teenager, there are so many distractions like technology or school events, but Faith is so committed and passionate about her riding. She really is a special kid,” Wendling said.

For a person who has won many accolades in her sport, Faith is quite humble about it all.

“I really love what I do, and it’s a bonus when all that hard work pays off,” she said.

After winning at the National Show Horse Finals, Faith received word of another big payoff. After auditioning two years in a row, she was chosen to try out for the 2014 Saddle-Seat World Cup Team. Made up of 13- to 22-year-olds, the cup team is the highest level of international saddle-seat competition.

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