Junior Liz Blaser, producer of Columbus’ brand new ice rink shelter and world champion in equestrian sports


Goc's Creative Images

Liz Blaser is dressed for photos, not sports, during this recent shoot. Photo by Goc’s Creative Images.

Aubreanna Miller, News Editor

WSC junior Liz Blaser has worked tirelessly, juggling the seemingly impossible tasks of building an ice rink shelter from the ground up in Columbus and serving in multiple national positions for the National Reining Horse Youth Association as well as becoming a world-renowned competitor in horse reining.

This winter, she hopes to complete and open her six-year-long project, an ice rink in Columbus called Columbus Ice. The project started out as a Diamond Clover Level Six Project in 4H, which is the 4H equivalent of an Eagle Scout Project in Boy Scouts. The journey of the ice rink started her sophomore year of high school.

Blaser joined 4H the first year she could and gave the organization her all. From the club, she gained leadership and speaking skills, a love for service and a devotion to horses and equestrian sports.

While trying to come up with an idea, Blaser remembers wanting to deviate from the norm of an agricultural centered proposal. One day, while looking out the window at a scenic winter wonderland made perfect with a lake in the middle, she casually mentioned the fun that would come from having an ice rink in her home town of Columbus. Blaser’s mom, Amy Blaser, told her about the old the ice-skating rink that acted as a social center for many years before shutting down. Together, they concluded that the community would benefit from the reinstalment of an ice rink, and the idea for her Diamond Clover Level Six Project took off from there.

In the beginning stages, Blaser had planned to refurbish and place a donated press box on a lake. But the community truly came together and turned the $45,000 idea into a $120,000 one, complete with a brand-new warming center. Blaser disclosed that countless businesses backed the dream by donating materials, time, money and support.

One of these, Columbus High School, had plans to build a storage facility and decided to partner with Blaser to give the building a dual purpose as the ice rink shelter. The around 1,400 square foot warming shelter will sit next to the outdoor rink on one of Columbus High’s practice fields and will be equipped with large windows, tabled seating, a concession stand and bathrooms.

Another one of the main contributors, Bryan Kearney from B-D Construction, reached out in 2018 and volunteered his services. He said that his favorite part of his involvement came from seeing the community come together. Lumberyards donated tons of material, a few local Home Builders Association chapters pitched in to do work for no cost and countless other citizens of Columbus gave time and money to see this to completion.

“[Kearney] has taken on the role as project manager for this, and I am extremely grateful for him because while I have learned so much about the world of construction- the short little dipping my toes into this- he has donated his time to take this project on with everything else that he has,” Blaser said.

As a high school student, Blaser brought together all these organizations and met with countless high-ranking members of the community. She credits her public speaking skills and confidence while conversing with business owners to her years in 4H. Leadership-based learning acts as a main focus of 4H programs. Blaser remembers having to read books to judges starting in elementary school and working her way up to long speeches for competitions.

The largest obstacle that Blaser faced was the length of the journey and people not truly believing that it would happen because of the timing.

“I think when I started this project, I initially thought it would only take one year,” Blaser said. “Now looking back, it has gone from my sophomore year of high school to my junior year of college and I think that was the hardest thing for me. Having people say ‘Is this still happening?’ Now, I’m finally able to say this is what’s happening.”

Covid also put a stop to operations on the ice rink. Kearney expressed that it had taken a long time to start with construction, especially when relying on donated labor and materials. With the pandemic, movement slowed from a walk to a crawl, making the venture take longer than originally expected.

Right now, Kearney and Blaser are installing the brick siding onto the building and finishing up some of the final touches. They have not yet decided on an opening date, but citizens of Columbus and surrounding communities should expect to have a lively day of skating this upcoming winter.

“As a parent, I watched her resilience through this project,” Mrs. Blaser said. “She had a lot of roadblocks and again, a lot of great mentors to help her weave through this, but she was juggling this being a full-time student with a very, very robust extracurricular activity schedule. I think we just had some amazing community support and it’s going to be super fun to see it all come to fruition.”

On top of the heavy workload from building a structure from the ground up, Blaser also made time in her hectic schedule to serve as Treasurer, Vice President and President of the National Horse Reining Youth Association as well as compete in horse reining competitions all across the nation. She quickly became a force to be reckon with in the world of reining.

As a child, Blaser approached her parents one day and said that she needed a horse because little girls needed to learn how to scrub water buckets. Luckily, her mother Amy Blaser attended Wayne State College at the time for her Master’s degree in business administration and mentioned during a class that her daughter wanted to get into horse riding. Mrs. Blaser’s professor had a horse that he let the young girl ride and care for which sparked her love for the animal.

Soon after, Blaser received a horse of her very own, a 12-year-old gelding with the registered name “Skies Tough Stuff” and the nickname “Tuffy.” She started going to a trainer named Carol Nielson, who taught her countless lessons from showmanship and horse riding to humbleness, hard work and other life advice.

“She started out as a Pinto Princess and state champion and then head of the National Reining Horse Youth Association,” Nielson said. “What a growth. Going from a little girl afraid to trot to the world stage.”

Blaser began as a young competitor in the all-around group which includes Western and English discipline events focusing on aspects like showmanship, riding events and pattern work. After years of doing that, at age 12, Blaser gave reining a try and her career ballooned from there.

“Reining is a discipline that judges the horse on their ability to perform maneuvers with a degree of difficulty,” Blaser said. “I fell in love with it from the first spin, which is a maneuver that we do. And from there it has just led me to a whole new world to have so many experiences. Not only at the local and state age levels, but on the world stage.”

These competitions have taken the rider all over the United States. In our own state, she has participated in multiple shows annually. Every year since age 12, Blaser has traveled to Oklahoma City by qualifying for the Affiliate Championship Show. She has also journeyed to Kansas and Minnesota for different events.

Her awards started out in 4H with various state titles, reserve championships and top 10 placings. Later, competing in national competitions has presented her with numerous awards over the years as well as gaining a spot in the top 10 in the world for reining last year at a competition in Oklahoma City. Blaser credits her success to her incredible support system, including her family and her trainer, and her horse named West Coast Magnum, or “Mags,” whom she had a once in a lifetime connection with.

“He gave me so much confidence in the pen and I really could put my trust in him,” Blaser said. “We just had a phenomenal year. I think I won seven buckles last year with him and it was awesome to end my youth showing career on a high note like that, especially with such an amazing horse.”

Along with traveling for shows, Blaser served in three national officer positions for the National Reining Horse Youth Association, which is a suborganization of the National Reining Horse Association, or NRHA. This institution focuses on promoting the sport as well as leadership development and opportunities for youth. She started with a delegate position, representing the North Central Region youth and acted as the liaison between those young competitors and the national officer team. Later, she served as the treasurer and vice-president before becoming the president.

The officer team consists of five young men and women who get opportunities to travel, meet with members of the NRHA, develop leadership skills, promote reining and connect with many high-profile faces in the world of horses. Blaser has met multimillion dollar riders and even worked with Taylor Sheridan and his hit TV show Yellowstone for their reining scenes.

“I had a great group of girls that were older than I was that encouraged me to run,” Blaser said. “Great things happen when you take that one step outside your comfort zone. And that just kind of encapsulates my entire life story.”

According to Nielson and Mrs. Blaser, Liz Blaser has obtained a long list of achievements because of her grit, stamina, determination and responsible personality. Growing up on a farm instilled these values into the leader at an early age.

“There’s no better place in my opinion to raise kids than a farm,” Mrs. Blaser said. “Liz had that foundation of having a very strong work ethic. She also has an intrinsic drive to always want to strive for excellence and that’s exactly what she does,”

This past November, Blaser made the hard decision to sell her horse to the next young competitor and put a pause on participating in events. In her major, chemistry health sciences for pre-medicine, she will need to focus on taking the MCAT and furthering her career.

“It’s been just such an amazing journey,” Blaser said. “Now that I’ve taken a step back, I can see it all. I’m a big believer that you need to run your life for a reason and you experience things for a reason. Every experience that I’ve had and every person that I’ve met, whether it be in passing or had long conversations with, has really influenced who I am as a person.”