Although Terry West will be competing in Sunday's Totally Thoroughbred Horse Show at Pimlico Race Course for just the third time, she won't need to adjust much.
West has been in various horse competitions for more than 40 years, working as a jockey for 27 years before transitioning into hunter and jumper horse competitions. She is racing at least four horses Sunday in both competitions at Totally Thoroughbred.
The event has 11 competition classes, ranging from West's hunters and jumpers to a walk-trot show for participants 15 and under. Nearly $15,000 will be paid to the owners of the first three finishers in each class. About 400 entered the show in 2013, its second year.
In the jumper category, competitors are scored on how quickly they complete the course, with penalties assessed for any jumps missed. In the hunter competition, they're judged on the rhythm and cadence they carry into each jump.
At last year's Totally Thoroughbred, West finished fifth in the hunter class and first in the jumper class.
Because she's competing with different horses in different events, West said she has to get to know each of her horses and the way they act on the course.
"When I get in the ring, I kind of adjust for the horse and see if it needs to move a little bit faster or another one a little bit slower, and I time the strides between each jump. Sometimes I'll count out loud the steps [the horse] usually takes between each jump," she said. "You try to ride equal strides between each jump."
West, 58, owns and trains the horses she competes with, which she said helps build the relationships she needs on the course.
"They all have different personalities," she said. "When one neighs, you know their voices. You can tell them apart from one another."
The Washington native and Woodbine resident said it's competitions near her home such as Totally Thoroughbred that keep her coming back to the sport. She says she can't stand to be away from her horses for more than a few days.
"Once you catch the horse bug, you never get tired of horses," she said. "If you don't see one for a week, you have to go ride it."
The competition was created by Maryland Jockey Club racing secretary Georganne Hale and Stacie Clark-Rogers, retirement program manager at Adena Springs, a racetrack and training center in Ontario, Canada.
Hale "does a great job with it, and it's fun," West said. "Everyone has fun. It promotes the thoroughbred, too, which is great because everyone knows it's the best horse."
The excitement is mutual for Hale, who said she's looking forward to seeing West race so close to home.
"Terry loves the jumper classes, and I expect her to be one of the favorites," Hale said in a Maryland Jockey Club news release.
West first competed in a horse-show competition when she was 5 years old. It was a leadline competition, a simple walk young competitors take with show ponies. Now she wants to show the lasting bond she has developed with her horses.
"It's going to be great," she said. "The adrenaline will keep me going all day. I'm going to hurt afterward, but it'll be worth it."