Corinne Shaw comes back to Carson Valley to compete with HITS
Amid the organized confusion of setting up for five consecutive weeks of HITS Tahoe, Carson Valley’s largest horse show ever, Corinne Shaw strides across the grassy parking lot with a bag of carrots dangling from her finger tips. Before she greets her father, before she takes a moment to look around, she opens the bag and offers her horse, Fanfare, a treat.
A seasoned rider, 19-year-old Shaw is looking forward to HITS Tahoe and five weeks of hunter/jumper competition. She strokes Fanfare’s muzzle as she talks about the benefits of a series of shows of this size and duration in the Carson Valley.
“There’s going to be more horses and of a higher caliber than some of the shows that we go to, and that is exciting,” said Shaw. “I’m looking forward to showing close to home and sleeping in my own bed at night. That will definitely be a new experience.”
Shaw is the fifth generation of her family born in the Carson Valley, tracing her roots back to the Neddenrieps. According to her father, Bill, the family was always involved in ranching and horses, “but Corinne is the first member of the family to ride an English saddle.”
And can she ride.
Despite a heart condition – ventricular tachycardia that produces an irregular heart beat – Shaw rode her leased jumper, Mr. French, to Grand Champion of Show honors in Rancho Cordova, Calif., two weeks ago. Four horses are in the Shaws’ stable – two are leased, and two are owned by the Ali Shaw Memorial Trust in memory of Shaw’s older sister, who was murdered three years ago.
“Ali and I shared a lot of things, riding was just one of them,” said Corinne. “Every time I ride Fannie (Fanfare’s stable name) and Steinway, I’m closer to her. Lots of people shut out Ali’s memory and act like it never happened, but my sister was my life, my best friend. If she can’t be with me physically, she’s with me in spirit. This way no one will ever forget her.”
n In memory of Ali. Julie Winkel at Maplewood Stables in Pleasant Valley, where Corinne trains, also keeps Ali’s memory alive. One of the show rings is named in her honor, and every year the Shaw family sponsors a Gambler’s Choice class at a Maplewood show, also named in Ali’s honor.
“The winner receives a cooling blanket with Ali’s name on it. Those coolers are everywhere, and every time someone sees one of them they will think of Ali. It’s my family’s way of keeping her close to us,” said Shaw.
According to Shaw, she and her sister rode with two distinctly different styles.
“Ali had perfect position and did well in the hunter division. Me, I like the clock. I show well in hunter classes, but I like the speed of the jumpers, knowing that winning is entirely up to the horse and me working against the clock, and not dependent on a judge,” she said.
n Long-time rider. While Shaw prepares for the five shows that make up HITS Tahoe/Minden, she reminisces about her first days in the saddle.
“I started riding Western 11 years ago and then switched to dressage. I’m really glad I did, because the dressage pays off in every type of riding,” said Shaw. “You learn to communicate with a horse, and that’s why I think that I do so well in jumping.”
Shaw started training over fences at Maplewood Stables seven years ago, progressing through the levels of competition. Now, she shows as an amateur owner, taking her horse over fences ranging from 3 to 4 feet high. Wise beyond her years, Shaw has learned to recognize when she isn’t feeling up to par, and no longer attempts to ride when her heartbeat is out of control.
“I rode one time when I knew I shouldn’t, and I fell and broke my knee,” said Shaw. “However, I’m fortunate that my condition hasn’t affected my heart. When I’m feeling good, I’m doing what I love best – riding my horses.”
The heart condition precluded Shaw from attending high school with the rest of her friends. Instead, she completed her GED in 1998 and is now attending cosmetology school. Even with the grueling five-day show schedule for the next five weeks, she will continue to attend classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“I’ll ride Thursday through Sunday, but I’ll only be showing three of the horses. Steinway is back at the barn getting a well-deserved rest,” said Shaw, who is looking forward to adding to her many accomplishments.
“Mr. French wants to win more than I do. He is incredibly fast, and when I make a mistake he looks at me like he knows that it is my fault,” said Shaw.
“I’m looking forward to HITS because I’ll get to see many of the friends I’ve made at horse shows over the year. I’m close to home, and I have another chance to prove to Mr. French that I won’t let him down.”