Horseback riding more than a hobby for Illini Equestrians

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  • Left to Right: Terri Foreman (trainer/coach), Carrie Carrollo (sophomore), Connor Siegel (sophomore), Jessica Budinger (junior), Melanie Golden (senior), Nina Blinick (senior), Emily Blok (junior), Emily Solan (junior), Jenny Williams (senior), Allison Knox (senior), Kelsey Concklin (senior), Hailey Anderson (senior) This is at Zone 7 Region 1 Championships. The University of Illinois English Show Team was Champions of the Region!

  • Kelsey Concklin, Senior - Open Fences

  • Rachel Burke, Junior - Novice Flat

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By Emma McGowen

Some people don’t believe that horseback riding is a sport, but those who have ridden at least once in their life know that’s not true.

Horseback riding doesn’t include trail riding — the kind of riding you do in a national park on vacation — due to the fact that the horses are trained to follow each other and little effort is required by the rider. Trail riding is simple and is not considered a sport.

The members of Illini Equestrians know that the hard work, long hours, physical and mental exertion, strength and dedication they consistently put into working with horses qualifies horseback riding as a sport.

“It takes just as much commitment, (it’s) just a different kind of sport and you need both physical and mental strength because you’re working with another living being that is a lot stronger than you,” junior Rachel Burke said. “There’s just as much physical effort and training as other sports to reach your goals and be competitive.”

The English show team has 10 competitions per season, spread out in two seasons: October-November and February-March. The Western show team had four competitions throughout October and November this year.

Coach Terrie Foreman travels with members of the English show team to St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in West Terre Haute, Ind., as well as Taylor University in Upland, Ind. The English show team focuses on Hunter Jumper, a multi-faceted competition that focuses partly on technical skill and partly on physical skill.

The team members are required to take at least one lesson, either group or individual, to practice various skills that could be tested in the show. Even if there aren’t any competitions, it is believed that riders should go out at least once a week to continue to progress and advance their skills.

With 10-12 horses specifically for the English show team, the students practice on different kinds of horses and adapt to new situations that can occur while riding. This is important because competitors do not get to choose which horse they ride. Instead, the students randomly pick a horse’s name out of a hat and are assigned to that horse for the competition, which makes it imperative for the riders to be adaptable to different horses and situations.

Showing competitively, riding, or knowing anything about horses is not a requirement to join the club. Senior Brandi Burton, president and the assistant English show team coach, reported that there are between 75-90 students in the club, with 37 students on the English show team.

For members who don’t want to ride, there are numerous social events, fund-raisers and demonstrations that they can participate in and for members who do want to ride, but not compete — lessons are available at various levels of experience.

Although many might scoff at the idea of horseback riding as a sport, Burke is of a different mind.

“(It) gives you an opportunity to try something different and working with horses gives you a sense of independence (when you) bond with a creature that’s so much bigger than you (and) two minds become one.”

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