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World-class rider earns an equestrian scholarship

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By Kristi O'Harran, Herald Columnist
  • Parris Rice, with her horse, Willie, are training for an American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Show in August.

    Photo by Jamie Brewer

    Parris Rice, with her horse, Willie, are training for an American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Show in August.

Parris Rice, 17, won world equestrian championships on the back of her best friend. Their accomplishments lead her to a Texas college, while her best friend stays home in the corral.
Parris, who lives in Snohomish, has shown horses since she was a toddler.
"Those are the memories of my childhood," she said. "I did have an advantage though. My mother was and still is a horse trainer."
She always had a horse to ride.
When she was 7 years old, she met her best friend, Javah Mon, or Willie. She has shown the horse ever since. The pair are in Texas training for an American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Show coming up in August in Oklahoma.
"I grew up with him," Parris said. "He has been with me during the most important parts of my life."
She won her first world championship riding Willie in 2009 in an event called hunt seat equitation.
Hunt seat equitation is based on how a horse and rider work together, she said. All competitors are given the same pattern to perform. Then the pair work on the rail while judges evaluate them on their body position and the obedience of their horse.
"I guarantee that Willie knew he had done something big when we won our first world championship," Rice said. "There has never been a more pleased look on his face."
They won the same event in 2010, adding to a long list of wins throughout their career.
But a young girl must leave the paddock to go to school.
Parris attended Monroe High School until midway through her sophomore year.
"It was difficult though to show horses, which required a lot of traveling, and have to time to go to school and get good grades," Parris said. "After talking it over with my parents, I transferred to (Insight School of Washington). Because of the switch I was able to spend a lot more time riding rather than sitting in a classroom."
Parris was in the fifth graduating class at the tuition-free, online school, Insight spokeswoman Leigh Sims said.
"Insight serves a wide range of students including accelerated learners, teen parents, athletes in training, and students who felt harassed or bullied at school," Sims said.
Graduates met one another at commencement and at an all-school prom.
The summer after Parris started online classes, she won her first world championship, she said.
"I was able to go to more shows and compete against higher level riders," she said. "To me this is more than just a coincidence."
She said switching schools contributed to her achievements at world-class competitions.
"Much of my success can be attributed to the fact that I have received help from some of the top professionals in the quarter horse industry who have believed in my horse and my abilities from the start," she said. "I believe a lot of it was my switch to Insight School of Washington."
Her studies went well.
Parris received an equestrian scholarship at Baylor University in Texas.
"There a lot of things that I have been able to accomplish that I am proud of, but my scholarship to Baylor University definitely makes the top five," Parris said. "The most exciting part of it is that I am going in as an NCAA athlete on a varsity equestrian team."
Heading to another state for college takes an emotional toll.
Students don't take their own horses to the campus.
"I am going to miss Willie a lot," Parris said.

Kristi O'Harran: 425-339-3451;
Story tags » SnohomishMonroe High SchoolWomen's Sports

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