Girl From Roy Wins International Horse Championship

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Mackenzie Merkel, a 9-year-old student at Roy Elementary School, has earned the title of reserve world grand champion through her competitive horse agility skills.

Mackenzie is trained by Kathy Richardson at Rusty Bar Ranch in Roy.

Since December of 2020, Mackenzie has competed in agility competitions where horses and their riders face different obstacles, while being led by a competitor.

Each month, the competitor is sent a new obstacle to train their horse for and over the year, they accumulate points as they attempt to place in the top three. 

After consistent finishes in the top three spots, Mackenzie earned the title of 2021 International Junior Reserve World Grand Champion. She placed second overall in her age group, accumulating a score of 212. The competition pits kids in the same age group from all around the world, including Great Britain, Germany and other European countries, according to Mackenzie’s mom, Christina Merkel.

“It has just been so exciting to see what Mackenzie has been able to accomplish, especially since she has only been competing for a year,” Richardson said.

Mackenzie began training at Rusty Bar Ranch in December 2020 after a year-long break.

Her family, being new to the area, needed to find the right fit for their daughter and landed on Rusty Bar Ranch.

“I am so proud of her. After a rough start at a different training facility, Mackenzie was able to find her love for horses again,” Richardson said.

Richardson said she was impressed early on by Mackenzie.

“In her first event, she went out, competed and tied for second. She would score 98/100 points,” Richardson said. “And that was just the beginning. After just a year in this new program, she has progressed to an advanced level of agility.”

Christina Merkel said Mackenzie, who is a fourth grader, fell in love with horses at a young age.

“When she was two, she saw a photo of her grandmother with her horse, and she immediately fell in love,” Christina Merkel said.

As Mackenzie grew older, she would build on her love of the animals through various events. 

“Ever since Mackenzie was old enough to start doing lessons, her love for horses blew up,” Christina Merkel said. “When she turned 6 years old, she attended a day camp for horses, and that’s when her love truly blew up.”

Mackenzie enjoys working a mini-horse named Ghost and takes the time to improve her chemistry with the animal.

Outside of horse agility competitions, Mackenzie is a member of the Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, and dance.

“She is a busy body,” Christina Merkel said. “She is constantly doing different things.”

Out of all her activities, Mackenzie’s true love remains focused on the animals.

“What’s not to love about horses? I love working with them, feeding them and helping clean the stall,” said Mackenzie. “Horses are great animals. They are so loving and will do anything you ask them to do, as long as you treat them well and work with them.”

Mackenzie looks to add to her achievements this year as she moved up to the advanced level of agility in January.

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