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Twice-Told Tale

Life in the Saddle

Eliza Larson
(Above) Larson has been passionate about riding horses since she rode for the first time on a Western saddle, but she quickly switched to an English one. Now, she competes in her events with her beloved horse, New Look. One of her events is hunters, which is a course of jumps where the horse is judged on its actions. A common assumption is that this places most of the work on the horse, instead of the rider. However, all equestrian events require a lot of practice between the horse and the rider so they can establish a bond of trust, as well as learn each other’s body language for competitions. On top of that, equestrians have to balance practices with school and family time creating a busy schedule.

One of the many amazing things about Lake Highland Preparatory School is the wide variety of athletes on the campus. From soccer and basketball players to archers and bowlers, LHPS seems to have it all. However, one type of unknown athlete, despite their extreme discipline and their sport’s fascinating history, is horseback riding. When most people think of a sport, horseback riding is the last thing on people’s minds. There is a common misconception that horseback riding has everything to do with the horse and nothing to do with the rider. However, Brooke McKenna and Eliza Larson, both in grade 11, know differently due to their passion for horseback riding. 

Larson owes her love of horseback riding to her grandma, who owns a horse barn in Connecticut, which allowed her to spend a lot of her time growing up around horses. Her passion for horseback riding is so strong that she is hoping to compete at the collegiate level. Larson is a competitive rider, which causes her to miss school and be away from home most weekends to either practice or compete. She practices five times a week and usually, when she is not practicing, she is competing. Competitions can last anywhere from one day to one week. However, she says she enjoys this lifestyle despite the time and work it takes, “Because it gives [her] more of a challenge and something to work towards.” Larson competes in the equestrian disciplines of hunters and equitation. Hunters is a course of jumps where the horse is judged on its movements and consistency, as perfect as the jumps themselves. However, in equitation, the rider is judged on how perfect their position is, how well they control the horse, and how their overall turnout is. 

On the other hand, McKenna discovered her love for horses three years ago, during her summer before 8th grade. McKenna started her career at WB Equestrian, which is a barn in Sanford, Florida. She started practicing on many different horses, but the first horse McKenna learned to ride on was named Tinker Bell. Then, she trained on her trainer’s horse, named Meiko, for a year. McKenna rode in her first competition with Meiko. She also competes in divisions called hunter jumpers and equitation. After she finished leasing Meiko, McKenna bought her first horse in Ocala, whose show name is Master of Fortune, but goes by Harold. 

The common misconception that horseback riding is all in the horse, is very untrue. The rider has to work very hard to get the horse to do anything. Larson stated, “If the rider sits there and does nothing, the horse wouldn’t move. The horse would knock down rails, and [it would] overall be a complete mess.” Larson also claimed that any horse can, “Pick up any negative energy” that the rider has, which will affect the horse’s performance. So she sees it as a sport where you, “Basically are controlling two brains in one sport,” both the brain of the horse and your own. 

With that said, it is clear that horse riding is a sport that takes extreme discipline and hard work. Whether the main scoring is based on the horse’s performance or the rider’s, everything that happens in a competition is due to the control of the rider, and their communication with their horse. Not only do they have to be in physical shape, they also have to be in a strong mental state to have a deep-rooted connection with their horse. This said it is not only a sport but a lifestyle. 

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About the Contributor
Sofia Cohen
Sofia Cohen, Copy Editor
Sofia Cohen is a student at Lake Highland Preparatory School in grade 10. Her favorite subjects in school are English and History. Her favorite part about school is being on a beautiful campus surrounded by amazing friends and teachers. When she is not in school, she enjoys reading, writing, listening to music all sorts of music (mostly Taylor Swift), watching movies, playing soccer, shopping, and spending time with friends and family. Her favorite time of the year is summer, and she can't wait to be on the beach again!

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