VIDEO: Rider overcomes injury to compete in equestrian festival

Published on Thursday, 20 June 2013 09:02 - Written by By FAITH HARPER fharper@tylerpaper.com

By all accounts Sarah Murphree, 20, should not be alive, much less performing intricate drills on horseback.

In 2009, Ms. Murphree, a Matagorda County native, was working with a horse when she passed out from going too long without eating. On the way down, her foot caught the saddle and she was dragged and stepped on by the horse.

The 16-year-old was in a coma for two weeks with over 100 stiches in her skull and a drainage port in her brain.

Ms. Murphree said she has been around horses for most of her life and has been competing in equestrian drill shows since she was eight. She immediately wanted to get back to riding.

This is her fist year back to compete in the Super Ride XI, International Festival of the Equestrian Arts 2013 at Texas Rose Horse Park, 14078 Texas Highway 110 North near Lindale.

The competition consists of riding teams, with four to 12 members, dressed in costumes and performing choreographed rides in front of judges and an arena of onlookers.

This year was made extra special because Ms. Murphree was picked to participate in the “All Star Team,” which consists of the best riders from each team. The riders have two practices with a total of about two and a half hours of practice to learn a special choreographed ride that will be performed on Saturday around 5 p.m.

“It’s an accomplishment for me,” she said. “(After) I had my accident, one of my goals was to get back to riding and to get back to nationals and participate in All Stars.

The year I had my accident was the year I was going to be a candidate from my team to ride in All Stars. It’s an honor to be at nationals and able to ride with the best in the nation.”

The number of riders selected each year varies, said the ride’s chorographers Ray Smithey and Gary Murphree. The ride is normally reserved for riders 18 and younger, but organizers said they made an exception for Ms. Murphree since her injury prevented her from riding competitively for several years.

Participants are nominated by their individual teams and selected by the Super Ride staff. Out of 400 participants, 24 will perform in the All Stars team.

The drill includes varying circles, zig-zag patterns, and at one point the riders spell out the word “hope,” but the chorographers said the routine is not designed to be overly complex.

“This is the fun part,” Smithey said. “They’ve all got their competition drills. … (This is about) camaraderie and to let them play together let all of them have fun together.”

The riders will dress in their competition costumes for the performance so their teams can recognize them, and perform before their peers before the awards announcements and presentations on Saturday, the final day in the five-day competition.

Mr. Murphree, who is Sarah’s father, said it is also a chance for the riders to make friends out of their competitors.

“They will make friends over the next couple of days learning, riding, and just cutting up,” he said. “They can carry on more conversation when they are riding then most people can driving their car on the cell phone.”

Ms. Murphree has been riding horses since she was a small child, and said while others excelled at sports or academics, her love was always horses.

‘It makes me feel really accomplished to be up here to compete again,” she said. “That was one of my goals after my accident, to get back, because when I woke up I was a different person, so you had to work at getting back to it.”

The competition will continue through Saturday. Tickets are $5 per person, plus $5 for parking. Children under 6 get in free. A complete schedule is available online at superride.org.