Jamie Mundwiler and her best friend Pete are headed to SDSU next week. It might not seem extraordinary for two 18 year-olds to be going off to college together, but it is. Pete is a horse!
Both will live on campus and ride together twice daily. As Jamie said, “It’s the best way to start the day”. Jamie’s mom, Tana, said she can’t imagine the two separated for long. “Jamie and Pete are definitely close. He just loves her and is always so happy to see her.”
This summer, the duo teamed up to win another World Champion title at the Palomino World Championship Show in Tunica, MS. They took home the top trophy in the Youth Hunter Under Saddle, an English-style contest where the horse must display different gaits.
Jamie and Pete also won top honors in the World Champion Youth Performance
Halter Gelding and World Champion Open Performance Halter Gelding. Jamie and Pete, whose registered name is Im a Blonde Leaguer, competed in a field of over 800 horses and 2000 entries at this prestigious show put on by the Palomino Breeders Horse Association.
In the Open Road Hack Division, an English style, Palomino-only class, Jamie was the only youth to come up against high profile professional trainers and she was rewarded “Top Three” title. “Quite impressive going up against the big-name trainers,” according to Tana. In the Youth Road Hack event, Jamie and her other horse, Toby, were awarded Reserve World Champion.
While the outcome might have come as a surprise to Jamie’s mother, it’s not surprising to others. Becoming world champions is hard work and Jamie and Pete begin preparing in January for the season which runs from April through November. Her trainers, Brian and Abby Vande Kieft, also known as Team VK, have been her family’s trainers for over 15 years. In the most aggressive part of the training season, Jamie moves closer to them and puts in as much time as possible. Most recently, that was Sioux Center, IA, but in the past it meant traveling to Brookings, Arlington, and Texas.
Traveling is always a consideration when entering a horse show and often one of the hardest parts. This summer’s show was no exception. The horses had to travel 17 hours in intense heat from Iowa to Tunica, which is just south of Memphis, TN. After they arrived, the heat remained relentless with six days of 100-degree temperatures and a heat index of at least 110 degrees. This added an unexpected dimension of difficulty to the contest for both the horses and riders.
Riding and showing horses comes naturally to Jamie as she is descended from a long line of equestrians. In fact, you can still see Mundwiler’s antique hearse – a horse-drawn carriage- on display outside their family business, Mundwiler Funeral Home in Milbank.
Jamie’s maternal grandparents, Darlene and Jerry Jaeger, are also horse enthusiasts, so Tana grew up riding and showing horses, too. Tim, Jamie’s dad, was into horses when he was younger, but entered more of the open show and game events. “Now he’s the barn boy,” joked Tana.
The family’s nine horses are currently stabled at Tana’s parents’ home north of Milbank, where the Jaegers raise the hay and oats for the horses’ feed and keep the truck used to transport them.
Even though Jamie and Pete will soon be enjoying campus life in Brookings this fall, they hope to make a run at another world championship title at the Color Breed Congress in Tulsa, OK, in November. Jamie hasn’t convinced her parents to let her make this trip, yet, but Pete is pretty sure they will say, “Yes.”
The first day of school is just around the corner and most kids can expect to be dropped off with a hug and a stern warning to behave. Jamie might be the only one whose parents encourage her to horse around.