The payoff came at the end of the day.
Alisa Siebenmorgan was on her fourth horse, in the fourth class of regional competition Sunday when the cheers came. She had secured a spot in the Interscholastic Equestrian Associations Hunt Seat national finals.
With the third place yellow ribbon firmly in her hand, the 13-year-old was surrounded by her parents, grandparents, friends and coach as she exited the arena at the Savannah College of Art and Design, hugging her horses neck.
Alisa, an eighth-grader at Mount de Sales Academy in Macon, qualified individually in the future novice equitation division. The top five places were selected to go to the national show.
Words cannot express how proud I am of her, said Middle Georgia Equestrian team trainer and coach Jennifer Mastronardi, who has a barn in Byron.
Alisa has been riding horses since she was 8 years old and has been riding with Mastronardi for the past two seasons. Her father, Bobby Siebenmorgan, said Alisa played soccer and had dance lessons before deciding she wanted to try riding horses.
She always just loved them, he said. She complains when she cant ride.
Alisas room has been decorated with horse pictures since she was small, and now she can decorate it with the ribbons from her Interscholastic Equestrian Association shows. She has finished first or second in all of her classes this show season.
Riders for the Interscholastic Equestrian Association shows draw an unfamiliar horse and are judged on their riding abilities on the animal. The regional show featured middle and high school students from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.
At nationals, to be held May 16-18 in Springfield, Mass., Alisa will have to face off against the top middle school riders in the U.S.
Im so excited, she said.
Middle Georgia Equestrian sent a three-rider team, which included Alisa, to the regional contest to try to qualify for nationals, but the team didnt have enough points to qualify. Taylor Beasley received a ninth place on the flat in future intermediate equitation, and Anna Lynn McNeal was sixth in future beginner equitation. Alisa placed fifth for the team.
This is Mastronardis third consecutive year having a rider qualify for the national show. Shannon Martin and Taylor Whiteley have been to the national events in 2013 and 2012, respectively.
Mastronardi attributes her students success to a little luck and a lot of praying.
Its such an honor and a privilege to be at zones, never mind nationals, Mastronardi said.
Teaching Alisa has been relatively easy because of Alisas dedication to the sport.
She completely understands what I want her to do, Mastronardi said.
Alisa will be practicing nearly every day to get ready to show in Massachusetts. She has been riding twice a week at Mastronardis farm as well as Renee Jones farm in Macon.
The horse show will take place during eighth-grade finals at Mount de Sales, but Alisa hopes to be able to take exams before she leaves May 15. She will graduate May 20 when she returns to Macon.
There wasnt a question, however, of her missing out on going to show.
Im just doing what I love, she said.