Upper Arlington High School senior Caroline Robinson speaks of training her championship quarter horse like a mother might discuss nurturing a child.
"Some (horses) are not willing to do anything and you can't work with them that well, but my horse has a great attitude," Robinson said of 6-year-old Sugars Lil Whiz, which she affectionately calls "Bam."
"It took us a couple months, but we really ended up clicking and working really well together. That's huge. You have to be able to trust the horse and know what he's going to be able to do. We just clicked and got along super well. It got better and better as the year went on.
"When he was doing something bad, he was trying to be good, and he really had a great attitude."
So did Robinson.
Thirteen years after taking up riding, Robinson rode Bam to a world championship this year in the 14-18 youth division of the National Reining Horse Association. She also recently signed a letter of intent to compete on the University of Georgia equestrian team.
Robinson -- who was among 14 UA student-athletes recognized for signing during a ceremony at the high school Dec. 13 -- gave most of the credit to Bam, who is housed at the barn of Shawn Flarida Reiners near Springfield, about 40 miles west of Robinson's home. Flarida has earned more than $4 million and five NRHA open futurity championships in a 20-year career.
"It's a pretty cool feeling," said Caroline's mother, Syndee Robinson, who fell in love with horses growing up in rural Shadyside, about 120 miles east of Columbus. "She did this on top of all her school work. We had to miss some school days, but as parents we felt comfortable because she's so proactive and works really hard. This was something she really wanted."
Caroline Robinson competed in 38 shows this year and finished with 301 points, 48.5 ahead of runner-up Morgan Sykes of Tallahassee, Fla. Robinson learned she would clinch the national title during a competition in Oklahoma City shortly before Thanksgiving.
Reining is a competition during which riders guide their horses through a precise routine consisting of spins, circles and stops. Competitors are judged by the responsiveness of the horse, making a good relationship critical.
Robinson was influenced to take up reining by her older sister Libby, 21, and Ohio State equestrian coaches Ollie and Debbie Griffith, with whom they ride. Libby earned an equestrian scholarship to Kansas State but now attends Marshall University.
Their middle sister, Anna, is a rower at Miami University.
"The big thing is consistency," said Vincenzo Santos, Robinson's trainer. "You have to not get negative points during your routine. It's just like a football team not committing penalties. The one that doesn't have any is going to win.
"She was successful at all her shows. Once we got to later in the season and she was high in the point standings, we adjusted her goals and she gave it all she had. It took a lot of hard work and dedication."
Robinson, who participates in UA's environmental and spirit clubs and wants to become an orthopedic surgeon, chose Georgia over South Carolina, Texas A&M and Texas Christian. She has no plans to pursue reining professionally.
"That would mean training and teaching people," Robinson said. "I just want to ride and be a client and go to shows and compete the best that I can."