Emily Freise, an 18-year-old living in Majenica, has spent nearly 13 years in the world of horse riding, training and rodeo competitions. Each morning, her day starts the same way: get up, feed and water the horses, feed and water the other barn animals, come inside, get ready for the day and head out for work.
While most people her age are spending time thinking about prom, graduation, getting a job and starting college, Freise has chosen a far less traditional path. After graduating from Indiana Connections Academy in December, Freise started working toward her newest endeavor of creating her own horse training and riding lesson business. And as of Feb. 20, this endeavor of Freise’s became a reality and Circle E Performance Horses was born.
“I’ve wanted to do this for about three years now,” Freise explains. “I knew that trying to start my own business while I was still in high school wasn’t going to work, but once I graduated, I knew it was time. I had the experience and the knowledge, and it was time.”
Much of the experience and knowledge that Freise has gained has been from working with horse trainers in the Huntington area. One of her workplaces, Z Animal Crossing, is owned by Leslie Zahm, who has been involved with training, riding, showing and breeding horses for nearly 60 years.
Freise has worked for Zahm for three years. Whether it be cleaning stables, bringing horses in from the pasture or riding horses when needed, Freise does whatever is asked of her.
“She’ll try just about anything. She’ll do just about anything I ask of her,” Zahm says. “I don’t have to teach her much because of how much she knows, and she always just jumps right in.”
Freise also works at another horse training facility near Zanesville, which is run by Shannon Hughes. Hughes has been riding horses since the age of 3 and started her training business in 2004.
“One of the strengths that Emily has is that she has a good understanding of horse behavior and good instinct,” Hughes said. “She has the ability to react appropriately in any given situation. She also has patience while training the horses. She has the ability to start a horse from the ground up to a finished horse.”
Carrie Freise, Emily’s mother, has seen firsthand what Emily is willing to do to make her dream of training horses come true.
“Since she was little, her passion has been horses and that has never wavered,” Carrie said. “She has never once complained about doing barn chores, taking care of her animals, or anything else that it takes to get where she wants to be.”
Carrie sees Emily’s passion for horses not only as a way to pass the time, but as a gift.
“As her mom, it’s scary to see her follow the non-traditional route and start a business right out of high school,” Carrie explains, “But, more than anything, I want her to follow the plans God has for her. He has given her a tremendous gift and talent in working with horses, and words can’t express how proud I am of her and the intense amount of time and hard work she puts into following her dreams.”
Emily currently runs her business out of her own barn, located in Majenica. She allows a maximum of three trainees at once and also takes on riders with any level of experience. Whether it be a beginner looking to learn the basics, or an advanced rider looking to perfect their skills, Freise has something to offer for everybody who comes through her door.
Mandy Tharp, of Huntington, heard about Circle E Performance Horses through a friend on Facebook and signed up her 11-year-old daughter, Brooklyn Tharp, for riding lessons. She is pleased to see the results since Brooklyn started her lesson in the beginning of June.
“Emily is amazing. Brooklyn has learned a great deal in the time that she has been going. Her confidence has really grown in the last few weeks,” Tharp says.
Emily encourages customers with horses in training to come by and see the works she is doing.
“By letting them see what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, it enables my customers to learn what they’ll need to do with their horses once they’re done being trained,” Emily explains. “It’s great if I can ride a horse and get them to behave, but the point is to make sure that their owner can do everything I trained the horse to do, too.”
Aside from working or running her own business, much of Emily’s time is spent training for and competing in rodeos around the country. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Emily missed nearly half of her rodeo season leading up to the national finals competition.
While participants in the east and midwest were stuck waiting for their competition season to start, competitors in the western part of the country were still able to attend rodeos and gain more points, which put them further up in the standings for the national finals.
“We still went in second in the nation for my age group,” Emily explains, “so even though we went in a little bit behind, we made it work.”
For many years now, Emily has had the goal of winning the title of world champion in the events of goat tying and trail course at the national finals competition for the National Little Britches Rodeo Association. Though she did not quite reach her goal this year, she did manage to run her fastest recorded goat tying time of 8.0 seconds. Emily also competes in barrel racing, poles and trail course. She also had an impressive barrel run of 15.274 seconds while at national finals.
This was Emily’s last year to compete for high school rodeo, and she will have one more year to compete at the national finals competition for NLBRA.
“I didn’t quite reach my goal this year,” Freise says, “but I’m going to put in the work and do what I have to do to reach my goal. We’re going to work and work and work until we’re ready. Next year is the year for my world title.”
To replace rodeo competitions at the high school level, Emily will be competing in rodeos at the professional level after she receives her pro card, which should happen by the end of July. College isn’t part of the equation and she’s made it clear that she’s all right wit that.
“The only reason I would go to college is to compete in college rodeos,” Emily explains, “and since I’m going to be getting my pro card, there’s really no reason to do that. I’ll just be competing at the professional level instead.”
Ultimately, Emily’s goals for the future are to grow her business and win the world title in at least two of her four rodeo events, goat tying and trail course. Far into the future, once she has decided that she has had enough time in the world of rodeo competitions, Emily plans to take on more trainees at Circle E Performance Horses.