RICHMOND -- Tori Wadsworth learned to ride horses when she was 3.
Her mother, Andrea, was searching for something to keep her young daughter occupied when Tori's father and brother would go on motorbike competitions.
At 5, she started riding at Sebring Stable in Richmond with a horse named Freeway. She started competing when she was 9.
The years of training have paid off; Tori, now a 17-year-old Lee High School senior, just placed second in the beginner hunter jumper division at the Grand National and World Championship Morgan Horse Show in Oklahoma City.
Tori's hunter jumper, Lucky, cleared two-foot crossrails in last week's competition to take the runner-up prize.
"I've always wanted to go to Oklahoma. To be able to go and do so well, it was the best time of my life," Wadsworth said Saturday at Sebring Stable in Richmond, where she works and learned how to ride.
Sebring Stable specializes in Morgan horses, which originated in Wstern Massachusetts and Vermont. Not as quick as thoroughbreds or quarter horses, Morgans are agile and sizable creatures.
"They are a fun breed," Tori said. "They just have a great personality."
Tori tried riding a quarter horse and a thoroughbred, but their high speed was not for her.
At the age of 10, her family bought her first horse, Cruiser.
From 2007 to 2010, the duo won the Open Pleasure championship, a division of the Western New England Professional Horseman's Assocation.
They went from show competitions to jumping 18-inch crossrails.
"For a little kid, that's a lot," Tori said. "It seemed like I was jumping over the world."
Tori had faith in her Morgan.
"You have to have an inner confidence that you're gonna do it," she said. "Your horse flies for you."
Together, they won multiple Short Stirrup championships.
Cruiser has a special place in Tori's heart.
"He's the sweetest guy in the whole world. He's taken care of me his whole life," Tori said.
Cruiser, now 26, is at her family's farm. Freeway, 30, is stabled with other Morgan horses at Sebring Stable.
Tori bought Lucky this past summer, and the purchase has paid quick dividends.
The pair won top prize for their class at the Eastern States Exposition this past September.
"He's a rock star," Tori said.
Horses have been part of her family going back three generations to when her great-grandfather Horace Crowley had horses on his farm in Becket. The farm is now owned by her grandmother, Karen Avalle, who lets her keep horses there.
"The adrenaline rush that you get from riding is unbelievable," Tori said. "It taught me how to communicate with an animal.
She believes her strong connection with horses has given her a lift at competition.
"I'm riding something that has a mind of its own," she said.
Tori is planning to attend college next fall to become a math teacher. Lucky and Tori will get a winter vacation through February, when training resumes.
She and Lucky will train four times a week.
"You just have to work with them as much as you can," she said. "You have to bond with them."
To reach Nathan Mayberg:
or (413) 496-6243