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Morgan Cook and Ginger will compete in the U.S. Pony Nationals in August in Lexington, Ky.

Morgan Cook has many cherished friendships, but one of her most enjoyable relationships is the special bond she shares with a four-legged friend named Ginger.

An 11-year-old student at Aynor Middle School, Cook will compete in the U.S. Pony Jumper Championships later this summer in Lexington, Ky., with Ginger, whose full name is Greymeadows Gingersnap.

Cook earned the right to compete in the prestigious U.S. Equestrian Federation-sponsored competition by winning Reserve Champion honors at the Camden Spring Classic in April. She and Ginger compete in the Medium Green Pony Hunter division for first-year competitors.

“My goal for the U.S. Pony Finals is to try my hardest no matter how hard it is and not give up,” she said.

Cook competes in the Hunter Pony model, under saddle and over fences divisions.

“My personal favorite would have to be hunter jumpers because I have done it almost my entire life,” she said. “I do like watching the jumpers, but I think I would like to stick with the hunters for a little longer.”

Cook is a daughter of Erica and Kenneth Cook, and rides with Vikki Graham of Justintime Farms in the Nichols/Green Sea area.

She previously worked with Kristi Grigg.

“I can attest to the work she has put in,” Grigg said. “There are so many memories. It’s a true pleasure to watch her progress and know her. She is a great kid with an amazing work ethic. She is the toughest non complaining and levelheaded small child I have ever taught on what used to be a wild man of a pony.”

Cook will join hundreds of other competitors in the annual competition Aug. 9-14 at Kentucky Horse Park. She lives on a farm in the Ketchuptown community, and has been riding since she was 3-years-old.

“The thing I love most about horses is their ability to trust and their ability to be patient,” she said. “I get nervous when I start competing, but after a while I feel like I am at home practicing and it is just me and my horse.”

Morgan and Ginger work well together and have become fast friends in the few short months that they have been together.

“We are so proud of Morgan and Ginger,” Erica Cook said. “From the first ride these two had together I knew she was the pony for her and they would be the perfect team. Watching their progress over the past year has been amazing. We cannot wait to see what the future has in store for these girls.”

Cook is proud of what her daughter has been able to accomplish in her first year with Ginger on the show circuit.

“They are currently in first place in the standings for both North and South Carolina for riders 11 years of age and under,” Mrs. Cook said. “They are also currently in the top six for green pony and rider combination for any age in the Carolinas, as well as in the top 10 for our zone that stretches from South Carolina to Tennessee to Florida. Even though she was the youngest rider in the class, Morgan and Ginger also successfully competed in their first Hunter Derby against many professional riders.”

The entire family is proud of Cook, and one of her biggest fans is her Mimi, Karen Frye.

“I am so proud of what this little girl has accomplished over the past few years,” Frye said. She has done an amazing job. She has worked so hard and now her passion and determination have paid off.”

Cook is an honor roll student at AMS, and a well-rounded person.

“Some of my hobbies are reading, and spending time with my family,” she said. “I like to go on trial rides some days just to sit back and relax. You don't need to win big blue ribbons and championships every time you compete. You just need to do your best and ride and then, win or lose, you can give yourself suggestions and improve your next ride.”

Although she is only 11, Cook can’t imagine not having horses in her life.

“I want to further my education with horses and strengthen my riding abilities,” she said. “I would also like to become a professional rider and help others to further their knowledge about horses.”

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