Saturday, February 19, 2000

Teen rider hopes to make U.S. team

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Alison Montoya is daughter of ex-Bengal Max Montoya.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        HEBRON — Dressed in sleek black and spurs, sitting high atop a horse, she'll be riding today for the chance to represent her country in one of the most prestigious equitation competitions in the world.

        Alison Montoya, a 17-year-old Beechwood High School student, is one of 20 young women selected to compete for one of five spots on a team that will represent the United States in the 2000 World Cup Saddle Seat Equitation Competition in September.

        “Only the best of the best are chosen,” Ms. Montoya said. “They ride at a high caliber. Once you get on that team you compete as one.

        “That would be my biggest goal.”

        Today, at William Woods College in Fulton, Mo., she'll ride three or four horses she's never seen, talking them into a walk, trot and canter.

        “They're looking at my form,” she explained. “You've got to be sitting up straight. You've got to be one with the horse; you've got to know what he's thinking.

        “I'm going to have to make a lasting impression on the judge. ... I want to be at the top.”

        Ms. Montoya, who lives in Hebron, is the first equitation rider from the Greater Cincinnati area to try out for the team. She placed in the top 10 of both the National Horse Show Good Hands Finals and the United Professional Horsemen Association competition in 1999. She also placed among the top five in the American Horse Show Association competition.

        These three finals are considered the Triple Crown of senior equitation competition.

        “She's really made her mark this past year,” said Kathy Boggs, the young rider's trainer and owner of Cape Cod Farm in Centerville, Ohio.

        “She got a new horse in June and that's really made a big difference.”

        Ms. Montoya will be riding against young women who have been members of the team before, but Ms. Boggs said she has a good chance.

        “She's riding very well,” she said.

        While most riders have been showing horses since the age of 5 or 6, Ms. Montoya has been competing for only five years. She and her mother got interested in horses when they lived in Los Angeles. Her father, Max Montoya, a former Cincinnati Bengals lineman, played for the then-Los Angeles Raiders at the time.

        “It was a kind of mother-daughter thing,” Ms. Montoya said. “There was a riding stable close in L.A. and pretty much everybody rode.”

        In Kentucky, Ms. Montoya started with a local trainer and stayed there until she was 15.

        “She taught me how to ride,” she said. “Then I really wanted to step my level of riding up. I wanted to ride at the high level.”

        So she started traveling to Cape Cod Farm a couple times a week and riding nearly every day at home. She lifted weights and rode bicycles. Sometimes she even stayed at the barn in Centerville in one of 16 bunks on weekends. It's just like when parents send their children off with trainers to prepare for the Olympics, Ms. Boggs said.

        Training is rigorous and since the competition is held only every two years, it will be tough to keep a riding schedule when Ms. Montoya starts college.

        “It's a discipline, almost,” she said. “It'll be a hard thing to give up, my relationship with my horse. I'll have to sell her.

        “That's my college education I'm riding on, my mom said.”

        She usually carries a Beanie Baby lizard named Iggy in her top hat for luck, but since she has to wear specific clothing for the tryouts, her mom will hang on to him.

        “There's no disguises,” her trainer said. “You can't come in with a $2,500 riding suit and dazzle them. They strip the kids down.”

        So today, when Ms. Montoya rides into the ring it'll be with power, with strength. She'll try to make it look effortless. She'll remind herself of everything she's learned in her life about handling a horse.

        “Stay strong,” she said. “Keep your position and whatever happens, happens.”


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