BY BILL WOLCOTT
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Autumn Cercone, who won the prestigious Carol Russo Memorial Walk-Trott Award last summer at the Erie County Fair, is ready to start the 2013 Niagara County equestrian season Sunday at the county fairgrounds.
Autumn, now 10, is a fifth grade student at Emmet Belknap School. She was 9, and a recent fourth-grader at Anna Merritt, when she captured the perpetual award named after Carol Russo. Russo was a champion competitor who taught children while igniting a love for horses.
Autumn showed her mother’s interest in the sport when she was 4-years old, according to her mother, Amanda Cercone, who works at Royalton-Hartland School as a computer programmer. Amanda grew up on her family’s horse farm in Sanborn and began showing horses at an early age.
When Autumn a was pre-schooler, her parents, Amanda and AJ Cercone, saw their little girl was ready to saddle up. Autumn was a natural and when she was 5, the girl was introduced to “CSS Done Deal,” a gelded quarter horse.
Autumn and “Dealer” have been equestrian partners ever since.
”He gives you all he he can give you,” Autumn said. “You ask him something and he tries to do it. We have a good relationship.”
The Cercones, who live on South Niagara Street, lease “Dealer” and Autumn visits her horse almost every day at the Niagara Equestrian Stables on Bartz Road.
Autumn said she has never been afraid of horses. “They’re really nice. They’re lovable,” she said. “I’ve gone to the barn my whole life. I go every day ... He kicks down when I walk through the door because he’s happy to see me. I talk about him non-stop.”
Dealer has had some problems, however. About seven years ago, he broke his jaw in a barn bay. In 2011, Dealer’s heel became caught in a stall door and was ripped to shreds. Still, he perseveres.
Amanda began riding in leadline competition when she was 5. Leadline is a horse show class for very young children. An adult or older child leads the horse in-hand; the child is judged while sitting on the horse and holding the reins.
Amanda saddled up alone in 2011 and began to compete in the show ring and open shows. She hoped to win the Russo Award, according to her mother.
In the trot-walk division for new riders, there a seven classes. Amanda took three firsts, three thirds and a sixth place at America’s Fair in Erie County.
A week after the fair event, Amanda was named Junior Princes at Newstead Equestrian Show.
Anthony Russo, 7, now is guided by his sister in leadline. Dad goes to all the shows.
The Russo family will be at the Niagara County fairgrounds at 9 a.m. Sunday for the first schooling show of the season in the country. The 4-H Open is May 19.
Horse and rider are trained by Sally Ferro of Lockport.