Get to know 2020 NRHyA President Morgan Ritz of Comstock, Nebraska.
By Kaycie Timm; Photos Courtesy of Morgan Ritz
Morgan Ritz, Comstock, Nebraska, served as an NRHyA delegate in 2018, was the NRHyA Historian in 2019, and is now the 2020 NRHyA President. She recently graduated from Ord Public High School and plans to attend South Dakota State University starting this fall.
We caught up with Morgan to learn a little bit more about her time as an NRHyA member, delegate, and officer, as well as her plans to stay involved in the future.
How’d you get involved in reining?
I’ve ridden horses pretty much my whole life. My aunt, [NRHA Professional] Serena Siebrandt, became a reining trainer and found me my first reiner when I was about 9 years old. He was definitely a babysitter. He didn’t really rein that well, but he taught me a lot. That’s what made it stick for me—my first year on that horse, Toby. My aunt has helped me find all my reining horses that I’ve ridden throughout the years, too.
Have you ever ridden in other disciplines?
I’ve done 4-H pleasure and horsemanship, but never at a super competitive level. I’ve always just been competitive with the reining.
What’s your favorite maneuver?
Circles. My horses have always been naturally good at circles. I love going from a large, fast circle to a small, slow one. I love seeing that transition, and I love the feeling when you just nail it.
What horse has had the biggest impact on your reining career?
I’d have to say one of my youth mares, Spinster Whiz (Remin Whiz x The Spinster). “Remi” was trained by my aunt [NRHA Professional Serena Siebrandt] and ridden by a girl in my aunt’s barn, then she was handed down to me. She taught me the most as a rider. She challenged my patience, but we accomplished a lot together. She was stubborn but very talented, and when we clicked, it was awesome.
Why did you decide to pursue a leadership role in NRHyA?
I was involved in the youth program through my local club, Central Plains Reining Horse Association, when I was young. All the events were super-cool for the youth. At my aunt’s barn, two girls I looked up to, Shalin and Claire, were NRHyA national officers, and I saw how involved they were at the local level and at the national level. I really looked up to them, so that got me into wanting to be a delegate.
Once I was elected as a delegate, [2019 NRHyA President] Liz Blaser helped me keep going. She was closer to my age, but she was also someone I looked up to. She really encouraged me to run for an officer position. My aunt was another big supporter. She obviously wanted me to focus on improving my riding, but she’s also been really good about making sure I have time to do my delegate and officer activities, too, because she understands how important it was for me to be in those leadership positions.
How did NRHyA impact what you pursued outside the horse world?
Since I became involved with NRHyA at a young age, I think it helped me be more active in my school. NRHyA allowed me to see how important it is to take on leadership roles. So, once I hit high school, I realized I needed to try to be an FFA officer or a Student Council leader, because I had already been told and shown that it’s important to pursue those kind of roles. I believe I would be a completely different student and person if I hadn’t had people reminding me that I had to apply myself in certain areas like that.
What memories stand out to you most from your time as the 2019 NRHyA Historian?
I have so many favorite parts. When I was first elected as historian, I honestly didn’t know what I was doing. But our officer team got so close, so fast—especially at the Derby. That’s when we kind of clicked as a team and is one of my favorite memories.
What was most challenging about stepping into your new role as NRHyA President?
I really looked up to Liz, and I saw what a natural she was at being president. I was scared about filling those shoes. I don’t talk as much, and I’m not as outgoing as she is, so I didn’t feel like I was a natural leader. It was intimidating for me to step into the role of president because I didn’t feel like I had the personality for it. But, when our officer team came to Oklahoma City in early March for team training, my perspective changed. Through that, I learned that I’m just a different type of leader. That helped me.
What are your main goals as NRHyA President?
I want to get more kids of all ages involved in NRHyA. We definitely attract the short stirrup and 13 & under riders, which is amazing, but I want more youth in the 14–18 age range to realize how much NRHyA has to offer them. I’d like to help encourage more involvement from that age group.
I also want to get more connected with international youth. I think we have the technology and the means to be able to get more involved with youth everywhere. Although COVID-19 has ruined some of our plans, I’ve seen a lot of youth active on social media lately. Our NRHyA Officer Team was able to make a group chat with the European Youth Council, and we have pen pals in other countries, too.
What horse-related goals are you pursuing right now?
I sold my show horses because I’ll be starting college this fall. I do have a 3-year-old that’s out of one of my old show mares. I don’t know if I’ll be able to show him this year, but my goal is to work with him and make progress before next year. I’ve also been practicing and trying to get prepared to be on the equestrian team at South Dakota State University.
Tell me more about your plans for the future.
At South Dakota State University, I’ll be on the equestrian team, and I’m going to major in nutrition and dietetics. After I get my degree, I’d like to work in a hospital or clinic setting helping patients who’ve been through an eating disorder or have had surgery. My role would be to communicate with the doctor about what foods might be best for them.
How do you plan to stay involved with NRHyA and the reining industry once you’re no longer an NRHyA officer?
I want to keep showing, and I would love to get my NRHA Judge’s card. That’s definitely a long-term goal of mine—to become a judge and stay involved in that aspect. I also want to stay involved with the youth part of things, even if it’s through an internship that wouldn’t really fit my major. I’d love to come back and work with NRHA!
What would you say is the best thing you’ve learned through NRHyA and the reining industry?
I’ve learned to truly appreciate what others have done for me, because I’m able to look back on how much I’ve grown and see how people helped me in certain areas. I’ve also seen more behind the scenes of NRHA, and I see how much work goes in to putting on a show or a draw party. I’m really happy I have that background knowledge now, because I can appreciate those things more knowing how much hard work goes into it.
Is there anything you wish you’d known sooner?
That it’s not always about winning every class or seeing major improvement in every ride. It’s more about how you and your horse have grown or how you have grown as a rider. I wish I had been told not to focus on my failures, but rather to look at what I’ve gained through those failures.
What advice would you give an NRHyA member who’d like to be an officer?
It’s really not as scary as you might think. If you have even one little thought about running for an officer position, do it. Take the opportunity. When I first started on this path, it was just a passing thought that others encouraged me to pursue. Now, I have a big passion for NRHyA, and I’ve definitely grown as a leader. Your passion can grow just from taking one little step.
Also, if you don’t get the leadership role you want the first time you run, keep trying. Instead of letting one failure put you down, use it as motivation to try again and use that failure as a fire rather than something to deter you from taking on a new challenge.
Get Involved With NRHyA
Do you know a young horse lover who could benefit from getting involved with NRHyA? In addition to receiving recognition for accomplishments in the show pen, NRHyA members can apply for scholarships, earn awards by participating in contests, develop leadership skills by serving as delegates and national officers, and more. Contact Youth Program Coordinator Sara Honegger at email@example.com or visit nrhya.com for more information.