Claim jumpers

Equestrians take it indoors when winter comes

Emily Sullivan and Kaylan gracefully leap over a jump rail.

Emily Sullivan and Kaylan gracefully leap over a jump rail.

Photo By David Robert

As skiers, snow boarders and all sorts of winter enthusiasts pull out their parkas and begin spilling out onto the slopes, Reno’s equestrian set turns in for the winter. “Turns in” doesn’t mean quit for the season, however. Some horseback riders simply move indoors.

Maggie Loving, owner of the hunter and jumper barn, Clover Leaf Equestrian Center, completed construction of one of the area’s largest indoor riding arenas a year and a half ago. The 35,000-square-foot structure, which overlooks a man-made pond, white picket paddocks and the distant Sierra, houses a 125-foot-by-200-foot riding ring stocked with brightly painted jumps.

“I would probably lose a good month, maybe even two, every winter because of the weather,” Loving, a 35-year veteran of the sport, says of her pre-indoor days.

She pats the neck of her mount, Lucas, a gray 6-year-old stallion imported from Ireland. He stands stoically on the sidelines, a bushy forelock draping over his eyes. In the background, a few of Loving’s students take turns popping over fences.

In the jumpers’ category, competitors ride against the clock, incurring faults (or points) for knocking down jump rails, falls, horses’ refusals to jump or for seconds over the time set for the course. The fastest clean round wins. In the hunters’ competition, a round is subjectively scored on style, movement and overall picture. And there is prize money to be had in both disciplines.

Loving, a blue-eyed blonde originally from Southern California, touched down in Reno 10 years ago. English-style riding was still in its infancy in Nevada, and there was only one show barn in the immediate area. Today there are six, although not all have indoor arenas. With 70-some students and two assistant trainers, Loving finds the sport attracts all ages and levels.

Loving’s troupe competes in Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington, but it’s occasionally cut off from the rest of the West Coast show circuit in winter.

“It’s inevitable,” says Loving. “We pay our entry fees and a storm dumps. I don’t travel over the pass when it’s like that, not with all these horses. They’re too valuable.”

Clover Leaf riders also keep competitive in winter competing against each other. The barn hosts Jumper Jackpot Nights in the indoor ring. The last Jackpot Night drew 30 entries. Fifteen dollars of the $25 entry fee goes into a pot. Winner takes it.

Clover Leaf Equestrian Center can be found at 1280 Rhodes Road, 848-7433.