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Great Bend cowgirl places at nationals
Great Bend's Kirsten Miessler


COLBY -- Kirsten Miessler "horsemanship career" was launched in Hutchinson when a Colby Community College coach liked what she saw.

"I was competing in Hutchinson at the State Fairgrounds when Colby coach Shanda Maddix recruited me," said Miessler, a 2021 Great Bend graduate. "I was shocked and surprised. When I visited Colby, I instantly fell in love. I'm surrounded by good people in a positive environment."

Miessler's horsemanship talent provided her the gift of competing for Colby at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) nationals at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky., where she placed fifth at Western Horsemanship Level 1 judged by Holly Hover (Cave Creek, Ariz.) and Debra Jones-Wright (Abbeville, S.C.).

"It was rewarding to see all my hard work pay off," Miessler said. "I feel the adrenaline rush of getting in the show arena. I love spending time with the horses."

Colby joined 111 college and university riders from the United States and Canada competing in all levels of hunter seat equitation on the flat and over fences and western divisions such as horsemanship, ranch riding and reining.

"Kirsten easily worked herself to the top of the class after rail work and solidified her place at the top of the class after her pattern," said Colby equestrian coach Adrianne Schaunaman. "Her rock-solid seat in the saddle combined with a great draw being 'Tommy' from Midway University proved to be a beautiful equation."

Miessler said competing at a national level was hard to believe.

"I was the only junior college rider at nationals competing against riders who had done this for five years," she said. "Kentucky was an amazing place. It was pretty cool for a sophomore to compete at nationals."

That's only half of her story.

Miessler competed at nationals on a horse with one blind eye.

Competitors are supplied randomly-drawn horses at each show. The horses are listed with a brief description.

Miessler’s mother noticed the description of “Tommy.”

“One stuck out to me,” said Heather Miessler, her mother. “I told the coaches, 'There is a horse on the list that is blind in the right eye.' ”

Her father Ron Miessler told Kirsten, ‘don’t draw the blind one.’

Guess what?

“She did, but 'Tommy' (No. 138) was great,” Heather Miessler said. “He’s a Midway University horse, and they said he’s one of their favorites. It's strange how things worked out.”

Kirsten learned that Tommy was a former 4H horse.

"When I first started riding, 4H was a huge part of my life," Kirsten said. "I kept a positive attitude and thought it was funny. I was excited about the opportunity."

Miessler racked up enough points to qualify for regionals level 1 horsemanship. At regionals at Findlay, Ohio, Miessler placed third to qualify for the IHSA nationals at Kentucky.

The "horsemanship" scoring system adds or subtracts points depending on the level of executing the required moves. Level 1 is the fourth most difficult level. Horses are led along a rail, walk, trot, lope and master a fixed pattern.

"You never have seen or rode the horse you ride," she said. "It's hard work to maintain proper position and make it look effortless. The judges rank who is the best horseman."

Miessler qualified for regionals at Colby by compiling points over a 2-year period. 

"You accumulate points that give you the opportunity to compete at regionals and those top finishers qualify for nationals," she said.

"We competed the same day as the Kentucky Derby," she said. "But before that, we drove to the Kentucky Derby, which was a thrill."

Miessler started riding when her parents signed her up for horse lessons. Trainer Deidre Moran directed the local riders.

"Our trainer taught girls who showed horses, and it looked like fun," she said. "It introduced me to horsemanship."

Colby competes with four-year colleges and junior colleges. The IHSA features more than 400 colleges and more than 10,000 riders. Competition is conducted in hunt seat equitation, horsemanship, ranch riding and reining. Riding levels feature open, level 2, level 1, rookie B, rookie A and beginner.