A Good Sport

By Barb McLintock

Korbin and Spindoll

He’s one of the youngest competitors at the Western Dressage World Show. And he’s riding the oldest horse in the competition.

But, boy, is 14-year-old Korbin Eckert bringing home the bacon. Riding at Introductory Level in the junior division, in the first two days of the show Korbin has picked up two world championships, one reserve world championship and one third, all in classes with more than 25 competitors.

As icing on the cake, Korbin’s friendly, helpful and unfailingly cheerful manner earned him the Youth Sportsmanship Award for the show.

And all this for a lad who started riding only 18 months ago.

Unlike many of the youth riders, Korbin doesn’t come from a ranching or horsey background. He’s the only member of his family who rides, although his family supports his interest and is here at the World Show with him.

“I’ve always loved animals,” he says. “I’ve always loved horses.” His family lived only a few minutes away from a riding school in their hometown of Spokane, Wash., and he decided he wanted to learn to ride.

He started at the Relational Riding Academy under the tutelage of Michelle Binder-Zolezzi. One of the things Korbin likes best about riding with Michelle is the emphasis she places on building a strong relationship between human and horse.

“Having a good connection with the horse” is so important, he says.

Korbin is riding two horses at the World Show, Spindoll and Paddys Irish Starlet. Spindoll, at 27, is the oldest horse competing at the show. She is part of the school string at Michelle’s barn and used for various riders. But since Korbin was chosen to come to the World Show, he has been riding her regularly.

Spindoll came to Michelle only four years ago as part of a rescue project but has more than proven her worth in the Western Dressage ring.  At last year’s World Show, at the age of 26, she won five world championships, including the Junior Introductory high-point award with a different rider. “This year, we’ll see what Korbin can do,” Michelle says. “She can do anything, but when somebody starts forming a great relationship with her, then they can do more – like take her to the Worlds.”

The American Quarter Horse Paddys Irish Starlet, who is 17 years old, came to the barn this past winter with a background in both reining and dressage, and Korbin quickly began riding her and forming a bond with her. Now he is leasing her.

The trip to the World Show has been an exciting expedition for a whole group from the Relational Riding Academy. They brought six horses and five riders, using a four-horse and a two-horse trailer, and taking 30 hours on the road from Washington state, spread over three days.

But some of the riders, including Korbin, flew down. He couldn’t afford to miss too many days of eighth grade.

So far, it has been more than worth the journey for all of them – especially Korbin.

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