Like a rhinestone cowgirl

Senior Jewel New shines bright like a diamond in western dressage


Evelyn Griffin.

New and Nic smile for a photo as she brushes him down. “I wish he knew how talented he is and how hard he works and how proud of him I am,” New said. “Neigh,” Nic commented.

Jewel New stood in the middle of the pen, buckle gleaming in the sun, watching Nic, her American quarter horse, with the intensity of a thousand cowboy standoffs. She set her lunge whip in the sand and in an instant, he was by her side, ready to work.

New is a rhinestone cowgirl, and her more than 400 awards for western dressage prove it. She has been riding for 10 years and has been building her relationship with Nic for three. Now, where New goes, Nic follows.

“Nic is my best friend,” New said. “He and I have a very powerful connection. We’ve gotten to the point in our relationship where we can really understand each other. My body language can influence the way that he moves and the way that he moves has taught me a lot about the way to do different maneuvers and how I should behave when I work with him.”

Their strong bond does not go unnoticed. Penny Reeves, owner of Graymar Farm, where New rides, has always been impressed with her way with horses.

[Nic] and I have a very powerful connection. We’ve gotten to the point in our relationship where we can really understand each other.

— senior Jewel New

“What’s been really great with watching Jewel grow and mature as not only a wonderful young lady but also a horsewoman has been watching the transition from wanting to ride and learn and have fun and win, to a horsewoman who is really focused on the mental and physical well-being of her teammate,” Reeves said.

New has learned to watch Nic closely so she knows when he needs to run, rest and when he’s ready to practice. Compromise is key in their relationship.

“Working with horses has to be all about the horse,” she explained. “Sometimes you’ll go out, and you’ll have some grand plan for what you’re going to do, and your horse is in a mood, and you need to spend the entire day just leading them around on foot, and you might not even get in the saddle. I’ve learned to be OK with that and listen to them.”

She and Nic are preparing for a horse show in April but, due to unforeseen setbacks, they have had to take it slow.

“Nic’s had a handful of injuries over the last couple of months that he’s still recovering from,” New said, “so our goal is to work back up to where he was before his injuries. His work ethic is very, very strong. He wants to please.”

Unfortunately, Nic is not the only one who has sustained injuries. Most recently, in April 2020, New lost the tip of her right index finger while tying Nic to a fence.

LEFT: New’s partially amputated finger is known affectionately as Samuel. She came up with the name while on heavy doses of painkillers. “I felt very close to him and felt that he deserved a name,” New said. “He just looked like a Samuel.” New’s friend Lily Christie even designed a bumper sticker for him, which New displays proudly on her car. “I thought making it humorous was a great way to deal with it” Christie said. “I was worried it would come off as offensive but she loved it!” (Evelyn Griffin)

“As I was making a loop with the rope and pulling it under the bar of the fence, he pulled back and my finger got caught,” she said. “He just got nervous and jumped back. It wasn’t even that strong, but it was enough to pull the top of it off. That’s just the weirdest feeling ever, like a second ago my finger was there, and then part of it was gone.”

New has learned to apply the patience Nic has given her outside the arena, and after months of physical therapy, her hand returned to normal (minus a few centimeters). Her friends and family are proud of how far she has come. Stacy New, Jewel’s mother, was with her every step of the way.

“I was very anxious about how she was going to handle the emotional aspect of [recovering from the injury],” she said. “You know Jewel. She’s very stoic, but I think she’s handling it very well. She’s been very brave and the support of her friends has been huge.”

Senior Lily Christie is one of those friends. She has known New for 13 years and says her patience as a horsewoman and friend has never faltered.

“She’s a great friend,” Christie said. “She’s motivated, she’s kind and she’s dedicated to friends, schoolwork and horsies.”

Around three months after her injury, New went back to Graymar Farm, ready to ride again with complete trust in Nic.

“She has gone to a level that most people never get to,” Reeves said. “That’s true horsemanship.”

New does not plan to do western dressage in college but hopes to visit Nic often. She plans to make the rest of this year count and spend as much time with him as possible.

“I’m going to miss my Nic,” she said. “He’s my horse soulmate.”