MONTCALM TOWNSHIP — Upon completing her routine in the Western Horsemanship Walk/Trot division Monday, the last thing Krin Groce expected was a top-three finish.
Krin Groce, 14, of Sheridan and the Boots and Dreams 4-H Club, smiles as she holds her brother’s horse, Magic, after they won first place Monday in the Western Horsemanship Walk/Trot division at the Montcalm County 4-H Fair. — DN Photo | Cory Smith
The 14-year-old had been through an emotional past few months, having witnessed the death of two horses, having a third come in underweight for competition and being left with less than three weeks to potentially enter and compete at this year’s Montcalm County 4-H Fair.
But the young Boots and Dreams 4-H Club member from Sheridan never let her head hang low, overcoming the tragic adversities that brought forward tears on multiple occasions.
Strapped into her boots and riding high in the saddle, Groce, seated atop her brother’s horse, Magic, competed with determination against her fellow 4-H’ers, keeping her emotion in check and her focus on the competition.
Krin Groce, 14, of Sheridan and the Boots and Dreams 4-H Club, smiles with Izzy, a horse she trained with early this year for this year’s Montcalm County 4-H Fair. The horse died from an aneurysm in the spring. — Submitted photo
By the time she and Magic had to complete the necessary rail work, trotting and walking on command from the judges, Groce heard her name called as the awards were handed out.
And then the tears flowed again.
But this time, it was not over the death of one of her two previous horses nor over the hardship of training Magic for competition in such a tight window, but for winning first place in the competition.
As she was greeted by her mother, Tammy Wilson, Groce held her first-place ribbon high, and the two embraced in a tearful hug.
“I cry about everything. It’s so hard to hold it all back,” said Wilson, who has been with her daughter every step of the way. “To have to watch your daughter go through all of that, it’s very tough. But it makes me very happy and that’s probably why I’m so overwhelmed by it. She’s so determined. It doesn’t matter what she goes through, she’s just going to push herself forward and continue because that’s the kind of girl she is.”
It all started in early spring when Groce was training with a fellow 4-H’er’s horse, Izzy.
Groce and Izzy quickly developed a close bond, preparing for the competition in Groce’s second year of showing horses at the fair.
“It was kind of hard because I started off with a pony, but with working with Izzy, I knew everything about her,” she said.
Groce became more confident each day with Izzy — until one day they found the horse unresponsive in a field. She had died from an aneurysm.
After overcoming the shock of Izzy’s death and upon reaching out to the 4-H community and beyond, Wilson found another horse for her daughter to train with — Matilda, otherwise known as “Tilly.”
Tilly herself had overcome adversity, coming from a broken home in which her previous owner had chopped off her tail, removing an inch of her tailbone in the process, out of frustration.
But when Groce saw her, she immediately fell in love.
Matilda, otherwise known as “Tilly,” is the horse that Montcalm County 4-H’er Krin Groce obtained and immediately fell in love with following the death of the horse she originally trained with, Izzy. — Submitted photo
“I taught her everything because she had been sitting in a pen for five years,” Groce said. “She was a horse no one wanted, but I loved her right away.”
But as it turns out, it wasn’t meant to be for Tilly to compete this year.
“I found out three weeks before the fair that I couldn’t show her because she didn’t have enough weight and she hurt her hip,” Groce said.
Having trained two horses to no avail, Groce felt defeated. Around that time, another horse owned by her father became ill and had to be euthanized, leading to compounding tragedies and hardships.
But despite everything, Groce was determined to go forward and compete this year.
With her older brother not competing in this year’s 4-H fair, Groce began training with his horse, Magic — with less than three weeks to go before the start of the fair and competition.
“Tilly’s trot was so smooth, but Magic’s is very different,” Groce said. “I was working with her and even taught her a few new things.”
Working hard every day, Groce and Magic quickly developed a bond that peaked with Monday’s first-place finish, as well as a sixth-place finish in the showmanship competition.
“Losing two horses, and then having to switch between three horses, it was kind of hard, having to teach them new things and figure it out on my own,” Groce said. “A lot of people in my club thought I was going to give up, but I didn’t give up, I pushed myself through it. I was able to do that because I love riding horses — it’s one of my favorite hobbies.”
Now in her fourth year in 4-H, showing goats for four and horses for two, Groce has become an inspiration to her family and her 4-H friends, overcoming the odds time and time again.
“I worked very hard to get to this point. It’s just … it’s really surprising that I can get to that point, overcoming all of this,” Groce said. “You work so hard, and then you think that you’re not going to get it and then you do get it, so it’s hard to control yourself when that happens.”
Groce’s 4-H leader, Tanya Badge, said she was especially impressed with Groce, given she’s only been showing horses for two years.
“I’m very proud of her and how far she’s come,” she said. “To only have three weeks to work with a horse and then pull off a first place award, that’s very, very awesome. It kind of speaks to her character. This is only her second year in the horse program, but she’s a pretty determined girl. If she sets her mind to it, she can pull it off.”
Groce will continue to show and compete in 4-H, as it has become one of the things in life she cares most about.
“I like working with horses and bonding with them, spending all this time with them,” she said. “I just like working with them, teaching them new things and then showing off what I’ve been working on. Depending on my mom’s schedule, I try riding as much as I can, almost every day. I never gave up, I pushed through it and I’m so glad I did.”
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