Jenelle Neumann learned to ride before she could walk.

“There’s a picture of me riding in front of my mom when I was just a couple weeks old,” says Neumann, who got her first pony, Penny, when she was 6 years old. “Basically forever I’ve been on horses. It’s something I’ve always done.”

Neumann, now a senior at Mountain View, won the Oregon High School Equestrian Teams Central District performance high point buckle earlier this month. Over three meets, she placed first in three events ­— (hunt seat equitation, in hand trail and showmanship) and second in two others — (trail equitation and western horsemanship).

She will compete in all five at the OHSET state meet, May 9-12 in Redmond.

Performance events are judged on a pattern of 10 to 15 elements such as walking, trotting, back turns and circles.

In in hand trail and showmanship, Neumann is on the ground. In trail equitation, hunt seat and western, she is riding the horse.

“I definitely like the slower, pretty stuff more,” says Neumann of competing in performance events instead of timed. “You want to look effortless and for it to just happen. You want to make it look like you didn’t give him (the horse) any cues.”

Neumann purchased her performance horse, a 9-year-old male named Goose, two years ago for $10,000 in Lebanon.

“He was just such a silly, goofy horse, which is how he got his name — silly goose,” Neumann says. “I rode him for the first time and he was just so awesome that I didn’t think about trying another horse. I just really fell in love with him.”

But Neumann and Goose were not successful immediately.

“He was nothing like the other horses I’d trained,” she says. “It was really frustrating. I’d come out of the ring and just burst into tears. He was a good show horse but he was nervous and didn’t enjoy it as much. It took a lot of practice in order to get to where we are now.”

Neumann gives Goose credit for taking her to another level in equestrian, including winning the Central District high point buckle this season.

She also competes in team events with Twister, a 20-year-old male horse she acquired when she was in the fifth grade.

Neumann won team versatility with her sister Lauren, a sophomore at Mountain View, and Owen Baker and Sarah Lachenmyer. The Neumann sisters placed second in working pairs.

“Normally my sister and I bicker around horses, but this is the first time that we’ve been together and really enjoyed it,” Jenelle Neumann says. “We came out laughing. Team events are so much fun. I really enjoy them.”

Jenelle and Baker also finished second in two-man birangle. She was supposed to be an alternate in team penning, but after Lauren fell off her horse competing individually in the third district meet at the Rim Rock Riders Event Center in Powell Butte, injuring her hip and pelvis, Jenelle helped Baker and Lachenmyer place second and qualify for state.

Mountain View, whose roster includes eight girls and one boy, recorded 1,534 total points in the three meets to easily win the medium-size team division. La Pine scored 1,166 points to finish second.

Lachenmyer won trail equitation and western horsemanship. Baker placed first in break-away roping and working rancher. Lauren Neumann took first in steer daubing.

“Almost our entire team is super competitive,” Jenelle Neumann says. “It’s really fun to have a team of this caliber. We really have a good time with the team events. In the individual events, more of us are stressed and focused on ourselves, but team events are a completely different atmosphere. We try to have a good time with each other.”

Mountain View’s equestrian team practices after school at Ghost Rock Ranch in Bend. Neumann also works with a trainer in Tumalo.

“During the summer I ride every day, during the school year I ride at least three times a week,” says Neumann, who also competes through 4H and FFA in the summers.

OHSET teams begin practicing in November and compete through June.

“It’s frustrating when people don’t see us as athletes because I go to practices and I have to strengthen my muscles and my body in order to do it and I have to strengthen another athlete’s body as well,” Neumann says.

“I have to strengthen my horse. I have to get him just as athletic as I am in order to compete well.”

Neumann says her goal is to win the OHSET high point state buckle at next month’s state meet at the Deschutes County fairgrounds in Redmond. The top five high-point placers advance to regionals in June.

Whenever Neumann’s high school equestrian career ends, she will have to sell Goose. Neumann is going to college at Pacific University in Forest Grove, which does not have an equestrian team.

“He’s so young and he’s so competitive that if I just kept him here for myself to come home once in a while, it’s not fair to him,” she says. “And I think someone else could do really well on him.”

But Neumann will have Twister to come home to.

“Twister is going to retire,” she says. “He’s getting to the age where he’ll do it (compete) but he doesn’t necessarily love it as much as he used to. He’d much rather be out in the pasture. He’s earned his keep. He deserves a break after all these years.”

­­— Reporter: 541-383-0307, .