ENTERPRISE — If it’s not risky, if it’s not a bit scary, why bother? That’s Carissa Yaw’s philosophy on why she likes trick riding.
The 13-year-old Enterprise girl gave her first real display of her craft at the Wallowa County Fair Junior Rodeo on Friday, July 31, when she followed up carrying in the flag at the fair’s inaugural event with a display of devil-may-care riding on her Pasofina trick horse.
“It’s fun and exhilarating to ride on a horse without reins and it gives a lot of horsemanship to a person and trains a horse and themselves to do that,” Carissa said.
Her dad, Craig Yaw, said they planned the performance for the rodeo since this year’s fair’s smaller nature — due largely to COVID-19 restrictions — cut back on the participation in a variety of events. With no traditional grand entry, Carissa got to be the one to carry the flag and then rode up and down the arena — not always astride her horse.
“We just inserted her into that program to kind-of kick it off,” Yaw said. “We were trying to keep it small and have less contact. We saw the opportunity.”
In fact, the 23-year-old horse Carissa rides is Craig Yaw’s former trail horse that she took over three years ago and turned into a trick horse.
“She’s been enjoying this trick riding quite a bit, not just how scary it is but the dynamics of where you’re putting your feet and hands,” Yaw said. “It’s kind of like putting a puzzle together in motion. The fluidity of where you’re putting your hands and feet is kind of like a ballet act. She’s done quite a lot of personal training with a personal trainer here in town to condition her body and to understand how to use her body better. She’s also worked with acrobatic people.”
Carissa also has received private lessons from a couple of women the family knows who regularly come through the area on their way to events where they plan to perform. The Yaws say they know of no instructors locally.
“She’s learned more of how to position her body … and be more correct and less sloppy, you know, honing her craft,” Craig Yaw said.
Does she worry about falling off and getting hurt?
“If I get hurt, my bones will probably mend … depending on how bad the injury is,” she said. “But it’s definitely worth it the amount of it I’ve done.”
Craig Yaw is more confident in his daughter’s ability than he is worried about her getting injured.
“She’s very systematic, very mechanical and she practices a lot,” he said. “She practices in the garage on a dummy on the trick saddle and then she practices with her horse tied up. Anything she’s doing on her saddle and underway she’s done thousands of times and has it down to a T.”
He said that while she expects to do well, she knows things don’t always go as planned.
“She has exit strategies if things don’t work out exactly,” he said. “If things aren’t going well, she’ll do an easier trick.”
The 4-H’er has been around horses all her life. She regularly helps out at her dad’s farrier business between Enterprise and Joseph. Although the family doesn’t have a long history with horses, Craig Yaw was determined about 35 years ago to become a horseman.
“I just got into it because I enjoy horses,” Yaw said.
He went to school, learned to shoe horses and served an apprenticeship before setting up shop. He now has about 20 horses, including a stallion, mares and their offspring.
With wife, Kathleen, and middle daughter, Carrin, 16, the family moved to Wallowa County about four years ago from Molalla on Oregon’s west side. Though she does not practice it professionally, Kathleen Yaw is an able horse trainer. Their oldest daughter, Danielle, 27, lives on the west side.
All three daughters have been involved with horses and in 4-H. In fact, it was Carrin’s brief flirtation with trick riding that led to Carissa’s picking up the reins when big sis decided she didn’t want to do it.
“To me, it’s not fun to do easy things, when there’s no risk in it,” Carissa said. “The more risk, the more fun it is.”