The pretty teen-ager on the impressive-looking sorrel mare entered the ring confidently after opening the gate. Horse and rider walked over the poles on the ground, trotted around the corner, walked over a bridge, backed through an "L" made from poles on the ground, trotted over more poles, loped around the corner on the left lead, side-passed around a box, entered the box and made a 360-degree turn, trotted out of the box, walked, trotted, walked again and exited the show ring.
The entire bleacher section burst into loud cheers at the conclusion of this perfect trip through the obstacles in the trail class at the Maryland State Quarter Horse Show at the Howard County Fair last week.
"This is the only place where Karen shows that all the relatives can get to easily," said Karen Diehlmann's mother, Angie, with a laugh as the bleacher crowd erupted in more cheers when Karen was awarded the blue ribbon in the class.
The Diehlmann clan -- parents Tom and Angie, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents -- completely filled the bleachers.
The Diehlmann crowd became hoarser through the day as Karen and her mare, Beta Bell, racked up ribbons in amateur trail, open trail, showmanship, horsemanship, pleasure and equitation classes.
Karen says, with an engaging grin, that having all her relatives in attendance does not put more pressure on her, but instead gives her and Beta Bell a boost.
The 16-year-old junior at Westminster High School has owned her 11-year-old mare for two years and they have brought home many ribbons from shows -- with and without the cheering section.
"The thing I liked best about Bee when I first saw her was her attitude," Karen said of the sorrel American Quarter Horse.
Karen says that Bee likes Western classes better than English, so that's where they concentrate. Her other horse, a black American Quarter Horse gelding that she has had for four years, also likes Western classes better, especially pleasure classes.
Angie professes not to know where Karen got her talent for horses and riding, but she and Tom have always encouraged their daughter's interest in equestrian sports.
After Karen proved to her parents that it was not just a passing fancy, they bought her a horse of her own and she joined the 4-H program.
"4-H helped a lot," Tom recalls. "They do all they can to help kids get started."
Angie points out that riding makes kids feel good about themselves; that has positive ramifications on school work, attitudes and relationships.
"It's definitely been worth our investment to see Karen doing so well in school and feeling so good about herself and her horses' accomplishments," Angie explains.
Karen, who was the runner-up Justin Boots Rookie of the Year last year in national American Quarter Horse Association competition, says her 4-H experience has been invaluable.
"The people are wonderful," she declares. "I really learned a lot in 4-H. The program gives you focus and direction and they encouraged me to go farther. I know that I want to keep on doing things with horses."