Two local teens took part in the U.S. Eventing Association national championships and placed among the top 15. The championships took place Aug. 27-Sept. 1 at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

The two riders -- Grace Burch, 17, a student at Burch Academy homeschool in Paducah, and Cate Kupper, 15, a student at McCracken County High School -- competed in the beginner novice junior championship that featured 55 riders from around the country.

This was their first year to take part in the championship. Burch placed fourth overall, while Kupper placed 13th.

According to the U.S. Eventing Association, eventing is like an equestrian triathlon, involving dressage, cross country and show jumping.

"The first phase, dressage, shows the graceful partnership of horse and rider through a sequence of movements on the flat," the organization's website says. "The next phase, cross-country, challenges the pair's bravery, fitness and determination as combinations navigate a series of solid obstacles and varied terrain. In the final phase, show jumping, pairs must again prove their precision as they clear a course of delicate fences."

Both teens have been riding horses for most of their lives, but only started competing.

Burch said competing in the national event was nerve-wracking, but her horse handled well in competition.

"I calmed myself down and started thinking about what I was doing, and it turned out great," she said. "I've been riding for about nine years now and competing for about three years.

"Eventing has a little bit of everything. It has dressage and stadium jumping and cross country. Those are things I like. I like to jump and I like to go fast, but I also like to control my horse, like I do in dressage."

Burch said she tried not to think about being in the national championships and just compete.

"In eventing, when you think about it, you kind of psych yourself out a little bit," she said. "So, I just tried not to think about it the whole time, but I definitely could tell that we were doing much better than we usually do. I was just happy to be in the top 15."

Kupper enjoyed her first experience in the national championships.

"I've been riding for about 10 years," Kupper said. "I started competing about three years ago.

"I was so nervous. It was great, though. I got to ride in Rolex Stadium for jumping. It's always been a dream of mine to do that."

The site for the national eventing championships rotates every two years, so it will be back in Lexington next year.

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