Anna Adams learned to walk before she could crawl.
The 13-year-old Oakdale resident and Connecting Waters Charter School student skips steps in her development like a game of hopscotch.
She does it perched well off the ground and seated above the hulking muscles of one of the most impressive cow-reining horses in the world - and there's no doubt of that now.
Adams and her eight-year old quarter horse, Bo, stunned the field of competitors at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Celebrations of Champions Derby by nabbing the Youth Limited World Championship on Jan. 25 in San Angelo, Texas.
Adams had never won a national title or nabbed any scholarship money, but erupted onto the national scene with scores of 213 in the rein work and 217 in the cow work to steal a bounty of accolades and awards at the biggest show of the year. She has only been horse-reining for two years.
"I knew Bo was really good and he would do a good job, so I just wanted to make a clean run," Adams said on Monday. "It was really cool because that was my first time at a world class event."
For her victory, Adams landed $1,700 in scholarships, a beautiful custom saddle, a Gist buckle and a bandage bag.
"I knew I would win scholarships eventually, but I didn't think it would be at the world championships," Adams admitted. "It really helps my career."
The victory didn't come without a major amount of work at the Adams's Escalon ranch and training facility, where the family lived before a fire destroyed their home and forced them to relocate to Oakdale.
Now Adams spends time going to and from work with her energetic mother (Andrea Adams) and a rambunctious brother (Austin Adams) who prefers his skateboard and tennis racket over a saddle and horse. Anna also has the support of her father, Wade Adams, who is a private plane charter pilot.
Anna made sure to thank her family for their encouragement, and recognized horse trainers Lisa Macuaeley and Clayton Edsall for their efforts in preparation.
Edsall is an accomplished rider himself who is a mainstay of the World's Greatest Horseman competition and the NRCHA World Show. Edsall trained Bo himself until parting with the cow reining horse two years ago when he sold him to the Adams family.
Edsall is a soft-spoken and deliberate man, and it's possible he talks (or whistles) to his horses more than he does to people. He did confess he was very proud of Anna for her performance, and indicated that he could see the success coming in the weeks leading up to the event.
"I guess you just have to ride the horse as best you can and train him best you can," Edsall said at the Escalon training facility on Feb. 13. "Some of that is just luck of the draw, but you have to try and get yourself and your horse prepared as best you can."
Cow horse reining is a complicated mix of rituals that brings the fluid mount-control of horse reining full-circle (pun intended) to the rodeo atmosphere of cutting.
Participants work their horse through the series of loops, spins and sudden stops at the peak of sprints, then break away to control a loose cow by boxing it against the wall of the arena and sending it galloping in each direction. The event concludes with difficult open-field turns in both directions alongside the cow.
It's a pressure-laden event, and it was only amplified in San Angelo when the world's best turned up to test their skills against the livestock and arena sod.
"I was kind of nervous, but as soon as I started looping my horse through the circles my nerves went away," Anna said. "It was pretty exciting and I didn't expect to win."
Anna will be back in action from March 26 to 30 at the NRCHA Stakes in Las Vegas.