Equestrian Team: Riding Horses is a Real Sport, People!


The South Kitsap Equestrian Team, complete with its Peninsula members. Photo courtesy of Karissa Talent.

Riley Rosi, Reporter

Soccer, football, baseball, hockey, golf, tennis, volleyball, rugby, lacrosse, water polo, and dance are all sports that people are familiar with. They’re considered “real” sports, but who determines what is a real sport and what isn’t? Horseback riding and equestrian teams have been around for decades. The first one dates back to 1912 and took place in Greece during the Olympics.

There are several different kinds of equestrian performances, such as jumping, gaming and performance. The performance event category includes stock seat, hunt seat, trail, showmanship, and dressage. Two of the most recognized events in equestrian competitions are jumping and dressage. Jumping is when the horse and rider jump a series of obstacles set at a certain height and width. The goal is to finish the obstacles without lowering the height or refusing to jump over them. Dressage is a test where judges test the rider’s ability to ride through a pattern in which the horse uses its whole body in order to complete the course and earn the highest possible score.

Seventeen-year- old Karissa Talent is a senior here at Peninsula High School. Talent is one of the people who wants to form an equestrian team at PHS. Unfortunately, she couldn’t start one because it would have taken too long to go through the district, so Talent and the rest of the girls joined the South Kitsap team.  

Talent describes her horse, Bentley, as a “pain in the butt” and “really sweet” at the same time. Involved with the performance portion of competition, Talent owns two horses but only shows Bentley (this is her second year showing but her first year involved with the Peninsula team).

“I see all of the other sports around our school, and we don’t have an equestrian team. No one believes that horses are sport, and I wanted to start a team here, so people can understand that it is a sport,” said Talent.

Although Talent was the one who put most of her time and effort into figuring out how to start an equestrian team, her mother, Kelli Talent, has also played a big role in forming the team. She provides breakfast on competition days, arriving at the arena at 5:45 each morning with enough food to serve sixteen to twenty people.

“My daughter was interested in starting an equestrian club at PHS, so I just wanted to help support her and her love for working with horses,” said Kelli.

Taking care of a horse involves a lot of time and effort. A rider needs to be able to take a minimum of four hours a day to take the horse for a ride and must complete at least two to three feedings a day. That’s just the daily routine; competitions are much busier and more stressful. The horse needs to be bathed and has to have its feet taken care of. The riders need to make sure that they have all of the necessary items that are required to take care of their horses as well as themselves.

To prepare for competitions, it is recommended that the rider works with his or her horse on what he or she doesn’t know. The rider needs to focus on memorizing the patterns for the routine, breathing, and drinking lots of water. The team usually arrives at the arena, where the events take place, between 5:00 and 5:30 am to take care of the horses and muck the stalls. Competitions begin at 7:00 am and continue throughout the day.

Abigale Saar is eighteen and a senior here at Peninsula High School. Saar has been riding her entire life, though this was her first year with the equestrian team as well. She wanted to join the team to show other students that riding horses is a sport and to see if she could earn some scholarships. This year, she showed her favorite horse, Bella. Bella is an eleven year old Irish sport horse.

Saar describes Bella as a “jerk”, but also “really sweet and interesting” at the same time. Additionally, Saar said that Bella has a different personality from that of any other horse she has ever encountered. This year, Saar and Bella took part in stock seat, jumping, and dressage. Saar recently took place in state and will get to advance to regionals.

“It was really cool that I got to go to state for something school-related. I am not a ‘sportsy’ person- I just ride. I got sixth place in dressage, and I am the first alternate to go to the next level, which is regionals,” said Saar.

As of right now there are about sixteen girls on the South Kitsap team. There our four girls who ride for Peninsula High School and two girls who ride for Gig Harbor High School.

“It was a lot of fun, I made a lot of new friends, and it would be good to get more people on the team,” said Saar.