Class project turns into 40-minute documentary

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SHERIDAN — Ever since she was a young child, Sheridan High School senior Nikki Copenhaver has loved horses. However, for a recent journalism class assignment, she decided to create a documentary film that captured other people’s love of horses, rather than her own.

“I’ve always been horse crazy,” Copenhaver said. “It always comes down to the horses.”

For her final semester project in her broadcast journalism class this spring, Copenhaver created a short documentary film called “For the Love of Horses” featuring horse trainers in the Sheridan area.

“We had to create a documentary and it was supposed to be about 15 minutes total,” she explained. “We could do it on anything we wanted. At first I was going to do something on local history or something like that but then I turned to my dad and then it expanded to other trainers.”

Her father, Ralph Copenhaver, is an accomplished horseman and trainer and her initial inspiration. However, he was just the beginning. Nikki Copenhaver went on to interview and film several other Sheridan area horse trainers to find out how they got involved in the horse industry and what keeps them motivated to continue.

“It shows the dedication and that they are passionate about what they are doing,” Copenhaver said about the film. “As far as the horse industry goes, it is really highlighted.”

Copenhaver not only profiled trainers and riders in the Western riding discipline, but competition jumping and polo as well. Being an accomplished rider herself, she said she is familiar with the variety of horse sports and riding disciplines, but wanted to share that with others.

“I wanted people to realize the different talent we have in our community with horses, not just the rodeo spectrum and riding lessons, but across the board with the different disciplines,” she said. “It is horse country around here, but you don’t see too much of the other disciplines, so I wanted to show at least a little bit of the English (riding discipline) side.”

Copenhaver’s final version of the documentary comes out at 40 minutes, though she provided a shortened version for her class assignment, for which she, of course, got an A. The longer, complete version has since been posted on YouTube and has been viewed more than 400 times. The film contains interviews with Ralph Copenhaver of Hanna Creek Acres Horse Boarding and Training Facility; Perk Connell, President of the Big Horn Polo Club and breeder and trainer of polo ponies; George Pfieffer, who competes in reining competitions; and Charlie and Hilary Carrel of Colts Unlimited who compete in hunter/jumper competitions.

Copenhaver said the lengthy project involved many hours of developing questions, setting up equipment, interviewing trainers and then editing the film. She was assisted by Lauren Alden, Alexa Inchauspe and Leon Schatz of Wayward Films, who loaned her stock footage.

“I learned a lot about filmmaking and editing,” Copenhaver said. “I had never done anything like that before I took the class. I learned a lot from everyone, including my dad, about what it takes to be part of the horse industry and how much time they have put into everything to get where they are.”

The video can be viewed at


By |July 19th, 2013|

About the Author:

Christina Schmidt has worked at The Sheridan Press since August 2012. She covers a variety of feature stories as well as stories related to local schools.