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Bucking for books

Eighth-grade equestrian wins $1,500 for school library

Posted: September 8, 2008 10:47 p.m.
Updated: November 10, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Ashlyn Matheus, 13, and her horse Perfect Summer Day took first place at the Riding for Reading competition at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center on Sept. 1.

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The library at Rancho Pico Junior High will be getting some new books - $1,500 worth to be exact - thanks to a young lady and a horse named "Perfect Summer Day."

Rancho Pico eighth grader Ashlyn Matheus entered the Riding for Reading competition at a benefit horse show Sept. 1 at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. The unique program allows riders from first through 12th grade to represent their schools and win grant money for their school's library.

Ashlyn, 13, entered because she wanted to help out her school but with 55 competitors, she never dreamed she would take first place.

"I was really surprised. My horse was behaving really well that day, so that helped a lot," Ashlyn said. "I gave Summer a couple of treats after that, because she did so well."

Ashlyn's family purchased Perfect Summer Day, called "Summer" for short, as an investment, never intending to keep her.

But then they all fell in love with her.

"I cried when Ashlyn won that competition, because when we bought Summer we weren't even going to keep her ... and now every time Ashlyn does well with her I just cry," said Angela Matheus, Ashlyn's mother. "That day Ashlyn and her horse went on to win champion in two divisions, so it actually turned out to be a really good day for them."

Ashlyn started riding competitively after receiving riding lessons for her birthday a few years ago. She loved the lessons, and now she practices four to five days a week, for about two and a half hours at a time.

With sports like football and basketball getting the most attention at United States schools, many young equestrians go unnoticed by their fellow athletes she said. The Riding for Reading program provides grants for school libraries and places young riders in the school spotlight where they receive the much-deserved recognition for their achievements.

Ashlyn is happy that she was able to use her riding skills to make a difference at her school. Rancho Pico is one of the newest schools in the William S. Hart Union High School District and is still in the process of building up its library.

"I hope they use the money to buy more books because that library is only about halfway full," Ashlyn said.

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