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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Alumna Rides Into Reality Television

October 24th, 2011
Marla riding Lucy

Alumna Marla Van Dyke Competing with Lucy

When Marla Van Dyke was a vet med student doing her externship at a practice near Eugene, she adopted a two-week-old Paint Horse named Lucy who had been rejected by her mother. Raising a new foal was a big job for a busy vet student so Marla’s sister Jill took on the constant feeding schedule. But once Marla graduated with her DVM, she and Lucy became inseparable. Little did they know that ten years later their special bond would lead them into the bright lights of reality television.

Marla grew up on a farm in Gaston, Oregon where her family raised registered Polled Herefords, hay, and row crops. And they always had horses. Marla was active in 4-H and FFA and received many awards for her horse and beef projects. From the time she was little, she wanted to be a veterinarian. “If you have animals, sooner or later something is going to happen that needs veterinary attention,” she says. “I can’t remember a time when the vet was called out and I wasn’t there watching.”

Her dream came true when she enrolled in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine in 1996. She remembers those years fondly. “I still think that OSU has one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve seen,” she says. “I met some lifelong friends there, played in the marching band for four years, and got to attend one the best veterinary schools in the country.”

After college, Marla and Lucy started training for competitions. “I have done all the training myself,” she says, “with occasional clinics to improve my skills.” When she could squeeze out the time from her busy veterinary practice, Marla competed with Lucy in local stock horse events. Two years ago the pair tried their first Extreme Cowboy Race, a timed obstacle course designed to push horse and rider out of their comfort zone and test their communication with each other. All this experience and hard work paid off this past spring when Marla and Lucy were chosen from a field of 1,000 teams to compete in America’s Favorite Trail Horse competition.

America’s Favorite Trail Horse competition is a trail riding competition with a twist. The field of 100 riders and their horses compete in a cross-country obstacle course while being filmed for television. Each week’s episode is broadcast on HRTV and followed by viewer voting which determines the teams that continue in the competition. The top three teams to make it through to the end will split a $50,000 cash prize. It’s the American Idol of the horse world . . . without Simon Cowell.

The show started filming in May of this year on the Franklin Family Ranch in the Texas hill country. The hot weather and limestone terrain were a challenge for Marla and Lucy. “The rock can be slick especially when it gets wet,” says Van Dyke. “I think the biggest challenge was the rock bridge that we all had to cross on day two.  It had rocks of various sizes and small areas where the water would trickle through.  It spooked a lot of horses; some wouldn’t even cross in the allowed time. Lucy went over it pretty well but she wasn’t sure about the cracks.” Add to that a bevy of cameramen and producers, and you can see what a remarkable team they are.

So the story of the little foal whose mother didn’t want her has a happy ending. But Marla and Lucy will not be riding off into the sunset. They are getting ready to compete in three more races this year.

If you want to see Marla Van Dyke and Lucy compete in America’s Favorite Trail Horse, you can catch them in Episode 7 on www.actha.tv. The show’s finale will be broadcast on HRTV in December.

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