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Horse, riders train for consistency

When most students think about fall athletics, football, soccer or baseball comes to mind. Although many high school do not offer horseback riding as a varsity sport, many students across the country participate and compete in horseback riding.

“A lot people don’t consider horseback riding a sport,” Janae Ford, ’09, said. “It’s something I’ve always loved, but it’s also a lot harder than a lot of people think.

“Every time I get on a horse, I have to respect how dangerous it is,” Ford said. “I’m dealing with a 1200lb animal that is capable of just about anything. I have to be careful.”

Horses are not born with abilities, but need to be taught by trainers. In addition, the rider must also train.

“It takes a lot out of me,” Abby Bauer, ’09, said. “I have to practice just as hard as any other sport and just as often. With the amount of muscle I have to manipulate, it isn’t easy.”

A trainer needs to take into account the readiness of both themselves and the horse before they attempt any event.

“I have a two-year-old filly and it is my responsibility to care for and train her,” Stephanie Major, ’08, said. “I have to teach Sadie everything. I have trained her myself since February 2006. I started from scratch and spent at least two hours per day teaching her the basics from leading, walking, trotting and cantering.”

Consistency becomes a priority for horse trainers. Both the horse and trainer must repeat each session until it has been mastered.

“It takes up a lot of time,” Major said. “Most training takes at least a few hours just to get started. Then it will take days, even weeks before you really get anywhere with the horse.”

A typical training session lasts a minimum of a few hours and must happen at least twice a week. When school and other responsibilities are taken into account, a horse trainer has a full schedule.

The cost of owning and maintaining a horse can become a huge expense. If the owner does not live on at least two acres of land, they must pay anywhere from $175 to $500 every month to board the horse. Veterinary bills must also be considered.

Major keeps Sadie at a stable and often spends time after school caring for her. While the stable feeds and houses her for $500 per month, she will ride her for an hour but mom insists she returns home by 7 P.M.

“Sadie is not old enough for competition yet but I am hopeful she will by June 2007,” Major said. “I will have to spend even more time with her to train her to jump fences. This is definitely my sport and I am committed to training myself as well to compete with Sadie. I participate with horses trained especially for English pleasure riding.”

A local contact for horseback riding is the equestrian team at Fresno State University. Go online at www.csufresno.edu/equestrian/default.html for more information.

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