For Meredith Kaltenecker, riding horses provides her with an opportunity to learn, relax and have fun.

For Meredith Kaltenecker, riding horses provides her with an opportunity to learn, relax and have fun.

"It's definitely a great escape from the city life," the Grandview Heights High School sophomore said.

"A lot of people don't really understand what I'm talking about when I tell them why I like to ride horses," Kaltenecker said. "I don't think they realize just how nice and quiet it is out in the country. When you're having a fun ride and really enjoying it, it's like an out-of-body experience."

Kaltenecker started riding horses when she was 8 years old, when she participated in a summer camp at Avalon Farm in Marysville. She subsequently attended more advanced summer camps at the farm, and began regular riding lessons three years ago.

She is a member of the Central Ohio Riding Club, which is based at Avalon Farm, and participates in the Stirrup Some Fun 4-H Club in Union County.

This summer Kaltenecker will be participating in a number of English riding competitions with Wilbur, a quarter horse that stables at Avalon Farm with a show name of Chocolualatte.

"I compete in what's called the Hunter Division, which involves a lower fence to jump over," Kaltenecker said. "The horse is judged not only by the jump he makes, but how he moves and how he acts" during the competition.

The rider controls the horse's movements using a number of complicated and subtle movements in the saddle, she said. The rider uses her leg, hands and even her seating position to guide the horse.

"It's a lot more complicated than people realize," Kaltenecker said. "I learned pretty quickly how much is involved. It really is a lot of work.

"Horses don't have a long memory," she said. "You have to act fast and anticipate how they will react."

Each horse has its own personality and different horses respond differently to a rider's guiding actions, Kaltenecker said. There can be some danger for a rider if a horse doesn't clear a fence or falls.

"It's important that you bond with the horse and get to understand them," she said. "Horses do choose people, and sometimes they just won't bond with you. But most of the time, if you get to know them, they will bond with you."

The process of learning and gaining an understanding of a horse is one of the most enjoyable aspects of riding, Kaltenecker said.

"I just enjoy being around them, seeing them and getting to know them," she said. "Although they are large animals, they really are sweet. They are gentle giants."

Kaltenecker and Chocolualatte will compete in several events scheduled this summer in the Marysville/Union County area as part of the Sizzlin' Summer Circuit.

"I enjoy competing and trying to get better at riding," she said. "The great thing about riding horses is that no matter how long you do it, there's always more to learn."

As a small girl, Kaltenecker loved horses and always wanted to own a pony.

"I always felt a connection to horses," she said.

That hasn't changed.

"The more you ride horses, the more you grow to love them," Kaltenecker said. "Horses will always be a part of my life."