Equestrian Team: working hard in the shadows

Katelyn Krause in her Hunt Seat Equitation class.

Equestrian is different than your typical sport. In basketball, you go to practice to improve your sprints, your layups, your freethrows; you practice everything for your own personal improvement. In equestrian, you not only have to improve your riding, but you also have to work with a 1,300 pound animal. Just like people, horses have bad days. Sometimes those bad days come on show days, which makes it ten times more difficult to place when you and your horse aren’t working well together.

“Peers think its just a person having fun riding a horse and do not realize the time and commitment it takes to compete on a horse,” Coach Deanna Prins said. “We are the only sport where not only the person is performing, but the horse is. The horse and rider need continual training throughout the year 7 days a week to keep peek performance – we are not just a seasonal sport where you are done and can continue at a later time.”
“We have to take care of our horses all year. You can’t just put your horse in your closet like a tennis racket or a basketball,” senior Heidi Mihm said.  “If you want to do good (and stay on) at the meets you practice all year,” Mihm said.
Hamilton’s equestrian team had 3 meets, held on Saturdays in September. This may not sound like a lot, which honestly, it is not, but, these girls have much more time invested in it than three days. Practices start in August, one night a week, and most girls practice many more nights a week at their house or barn. It takes an unbelievable amount of time with the horse to get you and your horse prepared for shows.
Friday nights can be very busy for an equestrian participant. Some girls will spend 3 – 4 hours in the barn Friday night grooming and preparing the horse for competition the next day.
“I have to clean the whites on his feet, clip his whiskers, bathe him, and put him in the stall for the night so he doesn’t get dirty,” senior rider Sienna Echols said. “I also have to pack the trailer and make sure all the correct show clothing and tack is in the trailer and ready to go in the morning. Then, in the morning, I wake up early to get any last minute stuff done, get my horse in the trailer, and be at the fairgrounds by 8.”
“I’m usually out in the barn a good 3 or more hours,” said junior Katelyn Krause. “I have to bathe him, groom him, and braid his mane all the night before, and this is after I get home from marching at the football game.”
“The actual prep time is a few hours the day before and a few hours in the morning to bathe, put the horse’s mane into tons of little ponytails, and paint their hooves,” Mihm said. “You also have to put a fake tail extension in and make sure they are ‘poop-stain free’ in the morning. Then you have to get into your clothes and do your hair and make-up. Each class has a different outfit and a different pattern. It takes a lot of prepping for about a 5 minute class,” Mihm said.
It can be a long day for the team, since the first class will start around 9, and the last class doesn’t end until 7 or 8 at night. From 9 a.m. to about 3 p.m., the pleasure classes take place. The pleasure classes consist of “showing” or “presenting” the horse to the judge. Both rider and horse must be looking their  best. Horse and apparel must be  in the correct tack for that discipline. In riding classes, participants must show the judge how well they can ride and how well their horse can perform in that particular discipline.
After all of the pleasure classes are complete, the speed classes start, which are 4 different events in which horse and rider have to complete the pattern as fast as possible.  The “speed people” have to wait all day until their classes even start. Through the day they watch the other classes and support their fellow teammates.
Our team did very well this year, as we were named the district reserve champions. This gave us the opportunity to compete at regionals, where we tied for third with Coldwater, just shy of going to the state championships.
“My favorite part is getting to show my horse with my friends,” Mihm said. “We all help each and it’s a great time laughing together about our mistakes and our victories.”
Even though we don’t get much attention, and hardly any spectators that are not our parents, we all still love participating in equestrian. We try our hardest to represent Hamilton the best we can at our meets.

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