One day, Emma Kurtz went for a ride with her mother.
As they were driving, Kurtz’s mother asked the then-5-year-old something completely out of the blue.
"‘Do you want to ride horses?"’ Kurtz said. "I said, ‘Sure.’"
The rest, you can say, is history.
Kurtz, a senior at Hudson High School, signed a national letter of intent to continue her academic and equestrian careers Wednesday at Auburn University in Alabama.
Kurtz, who plans to major in business, joins a team that lost in the National Collegiate Equestrian Association semifinals during the spring. The Tigers also were the Southeastern Conference runners-up this past season.
Kurtz chose Auburn over the University of Georgia and Texas A&M University. The decision was not a difficult one for the gifted teenager.
"It just seemed right," Kurtz said. "The coaches were incredible and the school is beautiful. It also has a good business program. It was the only school I visited."
Kurtz won the Palm Beach International Academy North American Junior Equitation Championship Oct. 1 in Maryland.
She also competed in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; and Lexington, Kentucky.
Once she was completely sold on equestrian, Kurtz knew her free time would greatly suffer.
"It’s a huge commitment," she said. "There was a big sacrifice involved. There’s a lot of time and money. A lot of people have stepped up."
Kurtz trains at Madison Hills Farm in Gates Mills. Her trainers are Mike Rheinheimer and Amanda Lyerly.
"I wake up at five, practice, go to school, practice again and I usually go to bed after dinner," Kurtz said.
Kurtz enjoyed being around horses since her mom took her to her first lesson when she was 5 years old. But it took some time for Kurtz to experience the spotlight.
"I was seven when I did my first show," she said. "I didn’t want to do it, but my mom talked me into it.
"I didn’t want to go into the ring all by myself since I’m pretty low key. Now I’m used to it."
Equestrian riders are judged on equitation, hunter and jumper categories. Each jump is 3 feet, 6 inches.
"I mostly do hunter and equitation," Kurtz said. "The hands have to be in a good spot and the heels have to be down. You just have to make it as pretty as you can."
Prior to riding horses, Kurtz gave soccer, gymnastics and at least one other sport a try.
"I’m very bad at golf," she said.
As a member of Madison Hills Farm, Kurtz always competed as an individual. That will change when she enrolls at Auburn.
She certainly joins a strong program.
The Tigers have been a conference powerhouse for quite some time, and Kurtz already has a rather lofty goal for herself and her future teammates.
"I would love to be national champion," she said.