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Arabian Horses | Competitive Sewickley Heights Sisters Not Horsing Around

Posted By: JR

For Devin and Maura Lally of Sewickley Heights, riding Arabian horses is about more than winning competitions.

The sisters, daughters of Kriss and Dr. Frank Lally, and sisters of Casey, a senior at Quaker Valley High School, recently brought home ribbons from a national competition.

But, their mother said, although they both always aspire to win, the girls also have learned about more than competing over the years.

“They expect a lot of themselves and their horses. I think it’s healthy to want to achieve more,” their mother said.

“Not a lot of people know how wonderful these horses are and how great they are to have in a young person’s life. Their success with the horses overlaps into their everyday world.”

Maura, 22, a senior at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is studying finance and economics, said she had to miss two weeks of classes to compete in the U.S. Arabian Horse National Championships in Oklahoma this year.

Before the competitions, Maura, who eventually wants to work in an investment firm or attend law school, said she hid in her dressing room to try to get as much studying done as she could because her mid-terms were coming up.

And, she said, that dedication paid off because she not only placed third in the amateur show hack division and was the named the highest ranked amateur competing in the professional category, but she also did well on her mid-terms.

Maura had to overcome more stress when her horse, 6-year-old E.A. Moulin Rouge, was diagnosed with a torn suspensory ligament, which she said is equivalent to an Achilles tendon.

“This injury is typically something that would send a horse home right away. It’s not something you mess with, but we were up all night with the vet working really hard to give her the treatment and medication she would need,” Maura said.

In addition, the horse also has a noticeably short tail, cut by a competitor last year, she said. Although the tail has grown a little, it still is not as long as it should be, which hurts the horse’s chances in competition because the horses are judged on appearances, too. Maura said the incident is under investigation.

When the national competition was over, Maura said she had a tear in her eye as she rode her last victory lap with her horse because it was E.A. Moulin Rouge’s last national competition.

She is being retired, and Maura will be riding 3-year-old Viva La Viva, a horse raised on the family’s farm.

“It was great to watch her grow up. She’s been my child for the past three years,” Maura said.

The horse is the offspring of Missy, who, Maura said, was born to be a show horse but broke her leg right before her first show and almost died. Now, the 12-year-old mare, who still is living at the farm, is a professional mother, having had four foals so far. She is scheduled to have another in June. Viva La Viva is the first of her offspring to compete.

For Devin, who competes in the country English pleasure-riding style, Lynyrd Skynyrd has helped her do well in competitions for the past several years.

The 5-year-old half-Arabian, half-Saddleback horse was named after the rock band before Devin’s family bought him when he was 2-year-old from a breeder in Ohio.

Although Devin, 20, a Quaker Valley High School graduate, has competed at nationals five times, taking the 2009 junior national championship in the Canadian Arabian Horse National Championships, this was the first time she competed in the amateur division for ages 18 through 40.

Although she said she was a little nervous because she said because Skynyrd can “act like a lunatic sometimes,” he behaved well and helped her place fourth in a national championship.

She also received a cash prize for placing in the top 10 in the amateur division with a “baby” horse – age 5 and younger.

At age 19, Devin was the youngest in the division and in the entire show, she said, so “I wasn’t expecting any kind of prize.”

“The hardest thing is to keep your cool under pressure,” Devin said. “Plus, trying to please your family, who are expecting you to do well. Every time something goes wrong, I tend to blame myself and not the horse.”

Devin and Maura both began riding before they began to walk, they said, and started to compete around age 7.

Devin said, with a laugh, that she really didn’t have a choice because her grandfather, Jan Maratta, also rides, along with her mother, who also has competed in nationals.”It was like, ‘You will ride a horse,’ but I’m glad I didn’t get a choice because I love it,” she said.

Right now, she is taking the winter off from competing but will ride Skynyrd at home, where she and Maura also give riding lessons in the summer as favors to friends.

Training will begin again in the spring at Empress Arabian stables in Peters Township.

Devin also plans to travel to Cuba this summer with Quaker Valley Spanish students as a chaperone to use some of the r language skills she is learning at Washington Jefferson College in Washington, Pa.

The sophomore majoring in English and minoring in Spanish and communications said she isn’t sure yet what she wants to do as a career.

However, she said, she does know she like to write and use her language skills, as well. And, she also intends to keep riding. Between the two sisters – the fourth generation of riders in the family – their mother said they have won 37 national top 10 awards, three national championships and two reserves.

“They want to pursue this for the rest of their lives,” Kriss Lally said.

“They are going to college now to be able to find jobs to fund their passion.”

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