Going From Green to Gold

Ciera Bennett loves developing her show partners from green prospects to gold buckle winners.

Like most horsewomen, Ciera Bennett has been drawn to horses for as long as she can remember. Once she reached the ripe age of five, she was allowed to go on a trail ride for the first time. That experience sealed the deal for Ciera and horses were all that she could think about. As time went on, she persuaded her parents to let her attend a local horse camp when she was seven. Being able to spend a week with horses shifted something in her soul, and she knew she couldn’t imagine a life without horses. “I remember feeling like I was home. I had never felt more myself until then! The horse I rode was named Sally and she was a palomino quarter horse, and I was in love!” She recalled of the time. Her parents realized that this was more than just a phase for Ciera, they knew they needed to help her follow her passion.

It wasn’t long after that Ciera’s mother gifted Ciera a beautiful black and white Appaloosa mare named Summer. “She was barely broke when we bought her, which looking back was crazy since I was only 8 years old!” Ciera shared with a little bit of awe looking back on her journey. “She had been severely abused and saved from the slaughterhouse. The lady who saved her turned then her into a broodmare, since she was too aggressive!” Ciera explained that Summer was rehabilitated and although still a little weary of humans, she was extremely kind when she knew she could trust you. “For some reason Summer and I just clicked. I remember doing the vet check on her and she was being aggressive towards the vet. The lady asked me to come hold her; I was a little nervous, but I went up to Summer and she just put her head in my chest and stood super still for the remainder of the vet check.” Their bond grew from that moment on, and Ciera knew that she would become her forever horse. The two blazed a new trail for themselves, building confidence and becoming quite a team in the show pen. “We went from junior walk trotters to state champions by the end of our 4H career together. Summer was retired after our 4H career and she happily lived out her retirement until she passed away at age 25 from founder. She was and always will be my forever horse and I was so unbelievably blessed to have her in my life.” Summer helped Ciera learn to be a horsewoman and taught her to trust the process of bringing a young horse along. Summer gave her the confidence to chase her next dream, which was to compete at AQHA shows.

Ciera had grown up watching peers show on the Quarter Horse circuit and knew one day she would find a way to be competing among them. However, stepping up to show on the Quarter Horse circuit would come at an added cost, one that her family wasn’t able to afford. Ciera didn’t let that slow her dream, when she turned sixteen, she got a job and begged her mom to let her send their current two-year-old to Kip Larson. “My mom told me if I could pay for all my board, training, and most of the horse shows, she was okay with that. I took my horse at the time to Kip, and I have been doing quarter horse shows ever since.” She was thrilled to be given this opportunity to enhance her horsemanship and challenge herself in the arena. Unfortunately, the horse she brought to Kip wasn’t going to make the cut to become the big-time All Around horse that Ciera had dreamed of. Kip had another client in the barn that was looking to sell their green show gelding. “We had a very small budget I didn’t think he was even an option. Luckily, he was very green with little show experience, so they gave me a great deal on him!” She said joyfully. “We started together in youth rookie classes and learned the ropes together! I rode him for my entire rookie and level one career.” Together they amassed many wins, both inside and out of the arena. Guinness introduced Ciera to a higher level of showing than she knew possible. After six fruitful years together, Ciera knew it was time for a new challenge and decided to part with Guinness so he could make another little girl’s dreams come true.

Kip and Ciera set out to find her a new horse that they could teach the All Around events with hopes of it being competitive enough to top the level 2 and level 3 classes. “We looked at a couple horses but hadn’t found one that I really connected with. In May of 2020 I remember I was at work and Kip called me saying that there was a horse that Katy Jo Zuidema posted that was very nice and we needed to jump on it. While I was at work on a Sunday, I booked tickets to fly to Florida on Wednesday. When we got there on Wednesday it was love at first sight!” Ciera remembered. While the young prospect was still very green, there was a softness to his gait that stood out to them as they watched him float across the ground. It was love at first sight, and within a week of first seeing him, Ciera found her new partner. “We knew we wanted him. We got him vet checked on Thursday and he was hauled back to Washington on Saturday. I thought it was crazy that we had been looking for so long and all of a sudden we found one and bought him all within a week!” When asked what made the gelding stand out most to her, she shared, “He had long legs and moved so soft. I also loved how his face was very refined for a gelding, I think it makes him unique!”

While showing a green horse may seem like a daunting task, Ciera knew she was up for it due to her experiences with Summer and Guinness. Summer showed her the importance of creating a bond with a horse, and Guinness taught her the importance of patience in the show pen with a green horse. “We went through some growing pains learning how to work together.” Ciera said with a chuckle. “It was a new experience going into a class and occasionally having a blow up or not being able to make it through the class without needing to school it. I think this really humbled me.” While she went through the ups and downs of having a young horse, Kip expertly guided her towards success. “It takes a lot of patience and grace!” It didn’t take long for these two to find their stride though. In 2022, Ciera and Kruzer won numerous circuit awards and all arounds in the Level 2 and 3 classes, fulfilling her dreams that she had for him when they bought him. “My favorite memory with Kruzer in 2022 was getting my first circuit championship with him in the Horsemanship last year.” Horsemanship is one of Ciera’s favorite classes, so this win was extra special. “This has been a tough event for us, so being able to pull it together and do well consistently was very exciting!” She also had shinning moments in showmanship and trail, with showmanship being another favorite for her, and trail being a favorite for Kruzer. “My favorite event with him must be showmanship! He has a compact body, so he can make the movements sharp and clean. It is fun to be able to challenge ourselves to get to that next level of competition! Also, a new event for me is the trail. Kruzer is very talented in the trail so learning to ride that class with him has been very exciting! I hope to be able to learn that class well so I can be a good partner for Kruzer!”

Ciera has plans of continuing their journey into 2023, hitting the major shows, and advancing their skills along the way. “My goal for 2023 is to nail down our lead change! We have been working hard this winter so hopefully we can pull it all together and be able to show it off this show season.” She shared. Ciera works as a Registered Nurse at a Behavioral Health Hospital. “I specialize in working with adolescents with a variety of behavioral and mental health diseases. Most of the adolescents suffer from depression, anxiety, psychosis, schizophrenia, mood disorders, and many others. My favorite thing about this line of work is knowing that I am helping kids that are suffering. A lot of the kids that I work with are in the foster system, so they just want someone to be there for them, I am honored to be able to be that for them!” Ciera’s kind nature and positive attitude makes her a bright light for those that she is helping. She loves her job for numerous reasons, but one of them being that her work allows her to pick and choose which days out of the month that she goes in. This flexibility is exactly what a horse show loving gal needs. She also has an incredibly supportive fiancé who encourages her to chase her dreams. “I want to thank him for being so supportive of my horse show habit! He never questions a new outfit or another horse show. He just says if it makes me happy then I should keep doing it! I also want to say thank you to him for staying home with the pups when I am gone at horse shows!” It takes a village to be able to show horses, and she has a great one.

Best of luck to Ciera going into the 2023 season. We are excited to watch your bond with Kruzer grow.

By Lauren Stanley