Senior equestrian Sarah Hecht earns national and world titles


Schatzberg Photo

Sarah Hecht and her Morgan at the Grand National & World Championships in Oklahoma City

Clare Erwin, The Delphi Editor

Del Val senior equestrian, Sarah Hecht, recently competed in the 2019 Morgan Grand National & World Championships in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Hecht placed 1st in the Morgan Park Saddle Junior Exhibitor Championship, and in the 16-17 division with her horse, Dragonsmeade Well Played. (It should be noted that this is his “show name.” His “barn name” is Riley.) She also took 1st in the Morgan English Pleasure 16-17 division and 2nd in the 14-17 division, this time with Dragonsmeade Varvatos, or Justin as she commonly refers to him.

“We worked really hard for this, and it was a goal we had been working on for 5 years,” Sarah said. “Everyone in my family has worked really hard to achieve these goals; everyone at the barn who keeps my horses in shape and my family for supporting me and putting on the money, because horses aren’t cheap. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”

Sarah has been riding for 14 years. She began when she was 3 years old at Smoke Hollow Farm in Franklin Township. She began competing after just a few years of riding, first locally, and then at competitions beyond New Jersey. She now rides at Scussell Stables in Pittstown, NJ with owners Ann and Brad Scussell, and with owners Alicia Owens and Dan Pavan at Scottfield Stables in Lenhartsville, PA. Sarah currently owns two horses, Justin and Henry, although she has owned and shown multiple throughout the years. She began riding Saddlebreds, but eventually transitioned to Morgans after buying her first horse of the breed, Del.

“Everyone in my family has worked really hard to achieve these goals; everyone at the barn who keeps my horses in shape and my family for supporting me and putting on the money, because horses aren’t cheap. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.””

— Sarah Hecht

During show season, Sarah says she primarily competes along the east coast. She’s had numerous shows in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, among others. However, she has competed in multiple shows across the country, including the Kentucky State Fair’s World Championships, where she placed 1st in section 2 for the 13 & under division. She has also competed in North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri, and California.

“[Competitions] create a healthy competitive environment, so it teaches sportsmanship and how to be a gracious winner and loser. It’s very humbling. It also teaches kids to be competitive in the ring, but to love your friends and competitors outside of it.”

Sarah takes part in an English discipline and performance division known as Saddleseat, where equestrians are judged on the abilities and skills of the breed of horse they ride. Each show has either a singular judge, or a panel of 3. The points earned at shows are accumulated over the course of a year, although they are not of great importance since they are more an indication of the amount of shows one has competed in rather than how a competitor placed.

Schatzberg Photo
Sarah Hecht riding to victory at the Grand National and World Championship Morgan Horse Show

Every year, The Morgan Grand National and World Championships at the Oklahoma State Fair Grounds attract thousands of equestrians, known as exhibitors, and their horses. This year, exhibitors from 45 states and 4 nations attended, all competing for national and world titles, as well as prize money.

Sarah first competed in 2014 with her first Morgan, Del. “This was totally out of the blue,” she said, “So it meant a lot.” In 2015, she returned with a new Morgan, Justin, after Del was injured and no longer able to be ridden. Sarah said she “clicked instantly” with Justin, and they came in 2nd in the nation for her age group. In 2017, they earned 1st place in the national competition in her age group, and 2nd in the world championships. After time off due to Justin falling ill, Sarah and her Scottsfield family were unsure if he would be able to compete. It was through this experience that she was able to buy Riley. Justin soon recovered and they returned again in 2018, winning the English Pleasure 14-17 National Championship and earning the title of Reserve World Champions in the 17 & under age group. Sarah explained that it was an unbelievable moment, considering the hardships they faced the previous year.

Sarah is interested in pursuing a major in animal science and currently works at a local vet office. She’s looking into colleges that offer riding, either through a club or collegiate team. In the future, Sarah hopes to buy her own Morgan and to continue to compete.

“Horses teach so many life lessons and qualities that every person should be familiar with,” Sarah said. “My trainer has this good quote and it says, ‘horses teach you a lot. Very little of it actually has to do with horses.’”