Since she was 7, Suzanne Crull has loved horses and horseback riding. As a young adult, the University of Mississippi sophomore and her steeds have become prize-winning regulars in regional and national Arabian Horse Association competitions.
The Arabian horse is a breed that originated on the Arabian Peninsula. With a distinctive head shape and high tail carriage, the Arabian is one of the most recognizable and oldest horse breeds in the world.
A biochemistry major from Magnolia, Texas, Crull owns three purebred Arabians. Ready Aim Afire J, whose barn name is “Red,” is her show horse. Her other steeds’ names are Valmont and OH Arise.
“I find being able to just ride and show my horse to be the most enjoyable part (of competing),” Crull said. “It is very fulfilling and gratifying to have a class where there are no major mistakes and have it be a clean ride in general.
“Getting a ribbon is always fun, but just the ability to go into a class and show off my horse is what makes it worth it to me, even if I don’t necessarily win.”
Crull is a third-generation Ole Miss student. Both her grandparents and her father graduated from the university and her older sister, Allison, is a junior linguistics major.
“My connection to the school was one of the main reasons I chose it,” Crull said. “And I knew I would have my sister close by.”
The AHA offers more than 500 competitions for Arabian purebreds; Half-Arabians, which must have at least 50 percent Arabian blood and one purebred Arabian parent; and Anglo-Arabian horses, which require a minimum of 25 percent and no more than 75 percent blood from each breed.
The competitions range from grassroots schooling shows – local achievement events that qualify riders for regional and national contests – to national championships – which include Youth Nationals, Canadian Nationals, Sport Horse Nationals, Distance Nationals and U.S. Nationals – and distance rides, multiday events that test a horse’s condition and stamina, rider intelligence and horsemanship under veterinary supervision on a cross-country trail.
“I have gone to Arabian Youth Nationals in Oklahoma City for the past three years and Region 9 in Fort Worth, Texas, for the past two years,” Crull said. “I enjoy spending time at them and competing with my horses. My love of horses and the sport has been what keeps pushing me to be better.”
When she’s on campus, Crull can’t ride, but her horses continue training in Texas. When home, Crull rides two to four times a week. She has been able to increase her riding time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While home, I’ve been able to manage both my schoolwork and going to the barn by dedicating a certain amount of time each day to those activities,” she said. “This year, I most likely will have to pick and choose which qualifying and regional shows I go to in order to not have a conflict with school.”
Because Crull holds an amateur card, she has competed only in the Junior to Ride, for all riders ages 14-18; Junior Owner to Ride, for owners 18 and under; Amateur to Ride, all ages 18 holding an amateur card; and the Arabian, Half-Arabian and Anglo-Arabian horse categories. Crull and her steeds have swept several divisions, including:
- Arabian Country English Pleasure: This is judged on the manners, movement and how willing and smooth the horse is during the ride.
- Mounted Native Costume: Judged in part on the manners and costume itself, but mainly on the movement of the horse.
- Arabian Side Saddle Equitation: This contest is judged on the manners of the horse as well as the smoothness and gracefulness of the ride. It also is judged in part on how appropriate the attire is.
- Arabian Show Hack: The horse is judged on the manners and execution of the gaits, along with the smoothness of transition between each gait and the willingness of the horse.
At Youth Nationals, Crull placed in the Top 10 Arabian Mounted Native Costume in 2019 and Top 10 in Arabian English Ladies Side Saddle in 2020.
In this year’s Region 9 competition, Crull won Reserve Champion in Arabian Show Hack, among several other categories in which she placed in the Top 5.
Casey Goslin, Crull’s trainer, said she has greatly improved over the past two years of training with him.
“When Suzanne came to me, she was a fair rider and very shy,” Goslin said. “Over the years, she has become an excellent rider who is much more outgoing and confident. She didn’t know how to ride side saddle very well when she started, but she’s really good at it now.”
As Crull ages out of the youth category and enters adult competitions, she plans to bring at least two horses to next year’s nationals.
“I just bought OH Arise in order to compete next year in either English Pleasure or Country English Pleasure at the 2021 youth national,” Crull said. “I hope that my education from Ole Miss will allow me to continue to support my participation with horses and in the Arabian show world.”
Crull is the type of student who is a pleasure to have in a class, said Gerald Rowland, instructional associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.
“Suzanne is intelligent, motivated and hard-working,” Rowland said. “She would always take the time to help her classmates during in-class assignments. She is a very caring person that is a pleasure to be around.”
For more about the Arabian Horse Association, visit https://www.arabianhorses.org/.
By Edwin B. Smith