Samuelle Leerkamp Flies High in Competitive Horse Jumping
Writer / Aimee MacArthur
Photographer / Travis Hinkle
A birthday gift can be life-changing. Twelve-year-old Samuelle Leerkamp has always loved animals. A birthday gift from her uncle for horseback riding lessons at Canterbury Manor Stables in Zionsville changed everything for Leerkamp.
“My uncle sent me a birthday Groupon for my eighth birthday,” she says. “I loved it. I really loved the opportunity of getting to bond with an animal.”
Leerkamp started taking riding lessons, and also learned about grooming and taking care of a horse. She believes grooming the horse helps the bond between rider and horse.
The special bond is her favorite thing about being a rider. “It is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling to earn such a big animal’s trust and friendship,” she says.
Leerkamp continued riding lessons and made the transition to jumping. “The barn that I go to is a jumping barn,” she says. “When I first started, I would always watch other jumpers and I decided I wanted to stick with it until I became like one of them. After I learned the basics, I got to learn how to jump and I really loved jumping. It was really fun.”
Leerkamp began participating in jumping competitions, and now has a collection of awards and ribbons. She’s worked hard through the last few years. For those who may not be familiar with a jumping competition, Leerkamp explains that a rider and horse jump between seven and 10 times in a normal course.
For Leerkamp, the experience of jumping is like flying. “You’re just thinking about what you’re doing in the moment, but after, you realize how much it felt like you’re flying in the air,” she says. “It’s really amazing, the feeling that you connect with your horse over the jump, and it feels like flying.”
Leerkamp’s hard work was recognized and she was invited to compete in the prestigious United States Hunter Jumper Association National Championships in Las Vegas in November of 2021. It is an honor for any rider to be invited to nationals. Leerkamp and her horse, Idol of Kings, won the blue ribbon at the Affiliate National Championship in the 15-and-under division.
“That is the award I am most proud of right now,” she says. “It was really unexpected after being invited to nationals. We were just happy to be there.”
Leerkamp has a supportive family who encourages her love of riding and cheers her on at competitions. She’s also received training by equestrian professionals who’ve been instrumental to her success through the past four years. Leerkamp is especially thankful to her main trainer, Sandra Brady at Canterbury Manor Stables (where Leerkamp rides Rooster, aka Be Sorta Bad), as well as Deb Danner at Bit-Whip Farm, Emily Ahlfeld with the Interscholastic Equestrian Association team, and Emily Farmer from Keepsake Stables. Farmer accompanied Leerkamp to nationals and has been training Leerkamp on Idol of Kings since the nationals.
Leerkamp enjoys when family and friends attend her competitions. “It’s really nice to have family there,” she says. “It helps a lot with your confidence. I love having people there.”
Leerkamp’s advice to any young rider like herself who wants to take horseback riding lessons is to try to relax. Leerkamp says she learned a lot from other riders and enjoys passing on what she’s learned to beginning riders.
“I would say you just have to be comfortable and trust the horse, because the horse can feel anything that you sense,” she says. “They can sense your heartbeat. If you start to get stressed, they’ll start to get stressed.”
Leerkamp doesn’t think about the future too much. She enjoys what she is doing now and hopes to someday be a professional horseback rider.
“My goal is just doing what I love,” she says. “Sometimes when you get into what you love and when you’re doing hard work, it will bring you places.”
Leerkamp stays busy with riding and school, and manages to find time for fun with her circle of friends. She says she’s made many friendships with fellow riders and even encouraged a friend to take up riding.
Upcoming jumping competitions include the H&H Stables Summer Horse Show Series at Traders Point (August 20-21, September 3-4, and September 17-18, 2022), and the IHSA Show at Canterbury Manor Stables (September 10, 2022).
For information on upcoming shows, check the calendar on the Indiana Hunter Jumper Association website at in-hja.org.