Clovis 7th grader wins horse championships

Left to right: Emily Sullivan, Ellieanna Collins, Sofia Margaryan, Shelby Ensalaco, Aubrey Faridoni and Teagan Wolf (Professional photos submitted by Rose and Armen Margaryan)

October 20, 2023 – Sofia Margaryan is a 7th grader at Reyburn Intermediate who has been dedicated to horseback riding since she was just a few years old.

Her mother, Rose Margaryan, said that Sofia fell in love with horses at the age of three and a half after her uncle took her to visit a friend’s ranch.

“It just clicked for her and she knew she wanted to be a cowgirl,” said Rose. 

Sofia takes lessons at Rick Kelley’s Performance Horses, which has been an important horse facility in Clovis for many years. Owned and operated by Rick and Alison Kelley—they offer lessons and training in addition to boarding.

“I’m so grateful that God led us to Rick and Alison Kelley when she was 5 years old.”

Sofia’s mother said that the connection she made with her trainer, Alison, was a miracle. 

“She went from being an introvert, very quiet outside of the home, to being a strong, confident and happy young lady,” said Rose.

“Building ever lasting friendships and bonds not just with her horse, but with her friends at the barn. The work ethic that these girls have is unmatched!”

It all started with Sofia taking one lesson, then it increased to the point of her parents Rose and Armen talking with Rick and Alison about buying a horse. They now own 5 horses. 

“It’s just been an all around lifestyle that we’ve all had to adapt to,” Rose told us. 

They purchased her first horse, Cruiser, in August 2020. It was a huge family event with a gold bow around Cruiser’s neck, and all her family there to see Sofia’s reaction to getting her first horse.

Once competitions began, however, they quickly realized that Sofia was going to outgrow Cruiser. So, on Christmas Day of 2021, they purchased Shootin’ Fireball, also known as Captain. 

The new horse allowed Sofia to advance to the next level, and she has seen much success with Captain. 

Sofia with Captain stopping (Professional Photos submitted by Rose and Armen Margaryan)

Just recently at the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Association’s (PCQHA) 2023 California Championship in Paso Robles, Sofia won: Reserve Champion, Circuit Champion, High Point Champion, and Grand Champion with Buckle.

“This whole thing has been a whirlwind—this horse life,” said Rose. 

Rose Margaryan was very excited to share what Rick and Alison have done for her daughter. She couldn’t emphasize enough how grateful her and her husband were for all of the opportunities that Rick and Alison have given her—in addition to the continuous love, support, and encouragement they show their clients and horses. 

“We are so proud to be a part of Rick and Alison Kelley Performance Horses!”

Rose and Armen Margaryan invited us to come out and watch one of the lessons at Rick Kelley’s Performance Horses.

Allison was leading instruction on that particular day, and the first thing we noticed was how technical it was. From terminology to maneuvers, this is clearly a very technical sport.

A detail-oriented instructor, Alison instills discipline and structure. She emphasizes consistency. This competition training program is serious—and a high level of performance is expected from these students.

The lesson started out with each student running structured maneuvers in the area, one after another. Being on display alone in the arena helps prepare the students for being on display during competition. 

Alison offers each student constructive criticism called “grinding.” This is crucial for their improvement, but it also helps prepare them for judging within competitions. 

This is, without a doubt, a serious sport—and these girls are athletes. 

“Even though at times these girls compete against one another, they all support each other, help each other and encourage each other,” said Rose Margaryan.

“We are so excited to see what God has in store for Sofia.”

Destiny De La Cruz is a budding journalist with a passion for photojournalism. As a Fresno State alumni, she earned a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication & Journalism, the Film & Media Arts option with a minor in Anthropology. She has an interest in all things film, food, literature & outdoors.