The beginner’s guide to equestrian

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    Many people are confused about the equestrian team, and sometimes don’t know that it involves horses, junior Western rider Katelyn Gray said.

    “We often get [people who confuse us] aquatics or weird things like that,” Gray said. “These girls put a lot of hard work into what they do, and it takes a lot emotionally, physically and mentally to go out and not only perform individually like most athletes do, but we also have to get horses ready.”

    Team members practice for about an hour each, but that does not account for the 45-minute drive to Springtown, the location of the TCU Equestrian facility. They also have to saddle and unsaddle the horses, which adds time to the process. Depending on their event, some of the team members have additional practices.

    “It’s a big time commitment,” Gray said. “We have weekend practices and when we host home games it’s a lot of hours, but it’s part of it.”

    Equestrian is one of the few sports in which athletes have to learn how to control not only themselves but an animal as well.

    “What’s so special about our athletes is that they are not trying to control a ball,” Director of Equestrian Haley Schoolfield said. “They are trying to control an animate object with a mind of its own, and I think that makes them exceptional athletes.”

    “They’re an athlete in top physical condition trying to control another athlete in physical condition and that makes our sport unique,” she said. 

    Equestrian competitions are divided into two types of riding, Western and Hunt Seat.

    Western riding is judged on both horsemanship and reining. A slower trot, called a jog, is preferred. Western patterns include elements of reining and trail.

    Hunt Seat involves jumping fences as one of its key elements. Judges assess the horse’s movement and form as well as the rider’s ability both on the flat and over fences.

    The rider who earns the highest score on their horse wins the head-to-head match and scores a point for their team. If there is a tie in the overall competition, raw scores given by the judge are added up and used to determine the winner. A raw score is drawn from all of the athletes’ individual scores.

    Equestrian is a competitive sport and something to take seriously, head Western coach Kindel Walter said. 

    “We not only love horses, but we are really competitive,” Walter said. “We appreciate that we get to be treated like athletes, and it’s not just a hobby.”