Reining supreme: Catlettsburg woman advances in sport

·2 min read

Jul. 30—CATLETTSBURG — Some call her the Bear Creek Cowgirl, but that's not entirely accurate.

Emily Opell shows reining horses, and very successfully.

The 21-year-old's lifetime winnings total $111,295, and has elevated her status to nonpro in a four-level structure.

"You can show in all four levels, but the more you win, the more you move up," she explained.

It has taken years and hundreds of competitions to arrive at her level.

Opell's interest in horses began when she was 11. Her family had trail horses and she enjoyed riding them, and she was aware of reining because she had seen that style of competition on a television show and she loved it.

"I didn't think there were any reining horses around here, but Dad took me to a friend (Joe Wolfe) with a farm and he had reining horses and he let me ride them and I took lessons," she said.

In 2015, she said she got serious and began competing.

Competitions have taken her to Oklahoma, Florida and Texas, although there are competitions in California. Her most recent win at the National Reining Horse Association Derby won her and her horse, Shine, $15,000. Quarter horses are used in reining.

"Reining horses are known for their sliding stops and their turns," she said, noting the television show "Yellowstone" has brought reining horses to the forefront. "There are 16 patterns and the judges pick out what pattern they want everyone one to run."

Men and women compete together and there are age division. The only level higher than nonpro is pro.

"The only difference between pro and nonpro is the pros train horses for money," she said. "Nonpros ride their own horses and don't train other horses."

She said she's not sure that she wants to rise to the pro level.

"I used to want to be pro, and may still, but people stay nonpro all their lives and have other jobs," she said. "I'm still thinking about it."

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