Texas Talent: Griffin Knight


Talent-Winningest-RiderSubmitted Photos

Focused. Decisive. Driven. Full of energy and enthusiasm. Talent-Little-GirlThese are only a few of the admirable qualities that describe one very special Texas girl from Madisonville. Meet Griffin Knight, a highly motivated young woman with a very bright future. Postcards had the pleasure of meeting her recently and found her to be a person with qualities that are inspirational not only to other young people, but to those of us on the other end of the timeline as well! Let’s get acquainted with this award-winning Texas Talent.

Tell us about some of your achievements while growing up in Madisonville.

My years at Madisonville High school were full of activities including student council, honor society, Beta club, and serving as class president while graduating third in my class. I played varsity softball for four years and was named MVP and First Team All-District pitcher. Talent-Girl-Next-to-HorseI was also involved extensively in the AQHA, the American Quarter Horse Association, where I had multiple top 10 finishes, as well as top 5 at the AQHYA World Show and Reserve Congress Champion.

As a skilled horseman, you must have started riding early in life. At what age did you begin and through whose inspiration?

By age four, I had a herd of stick horses, all corralled in my closet when I was not riding them round and round the house. Then Santa Claus, seeing my love of these high-spirited and frisky “animals,” brought me my first “real” horse. I named him after my boyfriend at the time, a fellow preschooler named Ty Theiss. So I had two Tys in my life at age four. Then a family friend, Lana Wells, seeing my absolute love and passion for riding, became my mentor and provided encouragement and guidance for me through these early years.

Talent-Griffin-Girl-On-HorseExplain to our readers how youth and collegiate competitions work and how your family was involved.

At the hobby level, which in college we horse people refer to as the “real world,” a child showing has a “youth career” which is age groups 18 and under. That is a broad range though, and it is usually not fair to find an 18 year-old competing against a 10 year old. So, the associations split the classes up between novice youth exhibitors and youth exhibitors by a point system based on the rider. In that youth career at the bigger shows (aside from the youth world show), most of the classes are split between 13 and under, and 14-18. Most kids become the most competitive during their 14-18 years of showing. Once you hit the age of 18, you have three options: 1) continue showing as an amateur, which we call our “amateur career”; 2) you can go pro and become a trainer; or 3) you can ride in college, which we call “collegiate riding.” Once you show collegiately, you can simultaneously show in the amateur events, or show in the amateur events after collegiate riding, or you can go pro after college. However, you aren’t allowed to compete at the pro level until after you’re done being a college athlete.

Talent-Auburn-ShowPeople usually have some type of professional help. I would say that when I started out showing, Lana, my mentor, took me to all of the shows as a novice youth rider. And my parents, Sonny and Dawn, always supportive and ready to provide me with all I needed to accomplish my goals, first wanted to see if it was just a phase or not. Once I noviced-out and became more competitive, and my parents realized that I was serious, I got a professional trainer for my 13 under career. At this time, I started showing and riding nicer horses, and my mom started to come to all of the shows with me. She was an excellent manager and helped with cleaning the stall, washing the horse, and keeping me on schedule. Dad was always supportive, but from afar (from his office). Once I entered my 14-18 career, I became extremely competitive, and this is the time which I remember the most. Everything changes. While it is still fun, the level is so much different because everyone loves what they do, everyone wants to be the best, and no one wants to lose. So every weekend, holiday, and summer I would either be at my trainers (Bruce and Cindy Walquist), be riding, or would be competing at a show. It was intense!

Talent-Griffin-Back-AuburnYou made the decision to go to Auburn and be on their Equestrian Team. What made you choose this university?

The University of Auburn is a very unique and special place, one that is actually hard to describe. I can characterize it best by saying that the Auburn experience is truly a family experience. The Auburn family offers a very nurturing environment in which one can grow to be yourself and become the best you can be. I had all I needed to excel in both academics and the equestrian program. The equestrian team comradery was second to none, and I grew to love my Auburn team sisters. We supported and encouraged each other on a daily basis.

You have won many awards as a horseman. What awards do you consider most prominent in your collegiate level career?

As a team, we were two-time National Champions, as well as SEC Champions. Individual achievements in my time at Auburn included NCAA Academic and Athletic All-American, and the All SEC Academic and Athletic team. I was 2016 SEC Horsemanship Rider of the Year and hold all three of the western horsemanship records at Auburn. These three awards include Most Career Wins – 37, Most Single Season Wins–14, and Most Meets Competed–65.

Wow, Griffin! Such an impressive list of accomplishments! I assume these were won competing on a horse that you had trained for several years and took to Auburn with you.

Talent-Auburn-Rider-WhiteNo, that is not the case. The horses we rode while on the Auburn Equestrian Team were all donated to the program for one reason or another. The majority of them aren’t very high in caliber of talent. It was definitely challenging! On meet day, there is a random draw of both rider and horse. The rider has four minutes in which to “test drive” the horse to determine its strengths and weaknesses. When the four minute clock started, I would spend the first two minutes pushing the horse pretty hard to determine its abilities and limits. When it would push back, I knew the limit was met. After the first two minutes of determining its basic behavior and traits, I would spend the last two minutes making friends with it. When the competition began, I had a fairly good idea of how to handle my horse and did the best that could be accomplished. Under these circumstances, the rider is showing talent in what they can do on a difficult horse that is providing no help at all. I actually enjoyed this process. It was a challenge that brought me great satisfaction.

I can certainly see the challenges presented in that situation to you as the rider. What about these horses? How did they fare overall?

Talent-Griffin-SmileThis was a challenging situation to the horse, and it was repeated over and over again. It would seem to be an unhealthy situation, but these equine were watched over meticulously by the National Collegiate Equestrian Association. The NCEA was extremely vigilant in making sure the horses were well cared for and not abused in any way. We loved our horses. It was a win-win situation.

There are a couple of different riding styles. Can you briefly describe the type of equestrian style in which you competed?

I ride Western style, which includes reining and horsemanship skills. Horsemanship is the control of the body position while performing maneuvers on the horse. A week out from the competition, we were given a random set of maneuvers on which we would be judged, including stops and transitions. Reining involves sets of maneuvers that are performed in eight separate patterns. These maneuvers would include (among others) stops, spins, circles, and speed transitions.

You have now graduated from Auburn, complete with a horse trailer full of equestrian and academic honors and trophies. What is next on your agenda?

Talent-Griffin-White-HorseI graduated with a political science degree, with a focus in pre law and a minor in business. I’m currently studying for the LSAT and will be working in a Houston law firm this summer with plans to enter law school fall of 2017. I’ve become very interested in the Middle East since taking an international relations course at Auburn, and this all may play a part in my future. I’ll have to see where it all leads. My sister Sonnye is in law school in Nashville, and I have other family members involved in the law profession, so it is something familiar to me and I look forward to its challenges.

What advice do you have for our readers, especially young people who would appreciate guidance from a highly motivated and accomplished Auburn graduate as yourself?

Work hard, be focused, and be persistent. Know yourself. What I mean by this is that you should identify your abilities and those interests for which you have a passion, and develop yourself in these areas. My passion was riding horses, so my time and energies were spent developing the skills which brought me success in this area of my life. I will now pursue my future in law with the same commitment and look ahead to the challenges and successes it will bring. We are all faced with failures and disappointments at certain times along the way. Don’t let those halt your progress. Learn from them and move on. Success is ahead of you!

Thank you for our time together, Griffin. You are such an inspiration and a delight to be with! We look forward to how you as a focused, decisive, and driven young woman will continue to make your family and Texas proud. Thank you for being the Texas Talent that you are. Take the reins and Go, Girl!


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