Equestrians take care of their 2000 lb. teammates

Skylar Kylstra, Senior Writer

When you think of your teammates on a sports team, a 2,000 pound animal doesn’t usually come to mind. But for equestrians Belle Sturm (12), Kelley Johnson (12), and Lena Diaz (9) that’s exactly what their sport entails.

Equestrianism, also known as horseback riding, is a very diverse sport dating back to when the first horse was ridden in 4500 B.C. Today, equestrians participate in a variety of different events which are separated into English riding (like dressage, show jumping, cross country, hunting) and Western riding (like barrel racing, cow cutting, and rodeos) which have different rules, dress codes, and even saddles. In most of these events riders are often judged on how “easy” they make riding look. But horseback riding is anything but easy.

“Most people think that you can go to the barn every once in a while and ride casually but it actually takes way more effort,” Sturm said.

Sturm, who has been riding since she was five years old and now competes at the AA level (the highest level for equestrian competition), takes lessons at least four times a week and goes to the barn to ride every day after school, even on weekends as well. To train, competitors mainly practice jumps with their horse as well as work on flat ground.

And not only do equestrians have a huge time commitment to training, but they are also responsible for the well-being of their horses. Johnson has the sole responsibility of grooming, feeding, and exercising her horse as well as keeping the barn neat and clean (and yes, that includes scooping). However, the unique connection a rider makes with her horse cannot be recreated.

“I like being able to work with the horse and how we are a team,” Sturm said. “You really have to depend on each other.”

Despite all the work it takes to be an equestrian, all equestrians will tell you that the hard work is worth it.

“I’ve done a lot of different sports, and horseback riding by far the hardest sport but it is also the most rewarding because it’s you and your best friend going out there and competing together,” Johnson said.