Equestrian Sports: “A Magical Experience”

November 4th, 2013 | By Marjie No Comments

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One of our MOVE National Advisory Council members, Ruth Siegfried, got the ‘horse gene’ in her family and now competes as an eventer regionally in nationally recognized competitions. When we asked her to share a couple of sentences about why someone should consider getting into equestrian sports, she was quick to answer, “They are a fantastic way to have fun, spend time outdoors, and have a great relationship with the most wonderful animals on earth! There is nothing like galloping a horse, jumping over obstacles, rounding the barrels or poles, riding the trails, or competing in the show ring. In no other sport do you have the opportunity to work as a team with your horse, and it is a magical experience! Go for it!”

We caught her enthusiasm and sought out some Athens area equestrians to tell us more about their sports. Leslie Norris, owner of Dublin Downs Equestrian Facility, was quick to share her own love of horses and the variety of activities that equestrians enjoy.

Leslie’s mother, Beverly Corey, had horses when Leslie was a small child and, at the age of five, Leslie started riding. Eventually, she began working with working at a thoroughbred racehorse farm near Mansfield, GA, exercising the horses, staying involved in 4H, and showing her own horses. Over the past 20 years, Leslie has boarded and trained horses and taught riding, and she now teaches in the UGA riding program. “Our emphasis is on the sport of eventing,” says Leslie, which comprises the three disciplines of dressage, cross country jumping, and stadium jumping. We also compete in local hunter/jumper shows.”

Equestrian sports promote activity and fitness in a number of ways. In addition to the muscle tone and core strength needed to stay in balance with a moving animal and not hinder his ability to perform the job required, there are all of the tasks needed to care for and maintain a horse. Grooming, tacking, untacking and cooling your horse after riding … all of these take muscle and cardio strength as well as agility.

Equestrian sports are considered ‘lifetime sports’ because children and adults alike can get involved and stay active as long as they want. Leslie explains, “We start children as young as five years old in abbreviated lessons. Children at that age usually do not have the attention span to ride more than about 20 to 30 minutes, but the rest of the lesson is devoted to learning basic safety. Age seven or eight seems to be the optimal age to seriously start children in a riding program, so students at Dublin Downs range from age five to 60+. There are people competing in equestrian sports into their 50s, 60s and beyond. It really is a sport for all ages.”

Getting Started in Equestrian Sports

There’s a difference between ‘having horses’ and ‘being a horse person,’ according to, well, ‘horse people.’ Thus, folks who want to get involved in equestrian sports should do their homework. According to Leslie, “Our mission at Dublin Downs is to provide a safe, accessible environment for people of all ages to learn to ride, and also, to learn all aspects of horse care. We want our students and owners to love the horses from the ground up. It’s not just about getting on a horse and riding. It’s much more than that.”

To learn more about horses in general and equestrian sports specifically, here are some things you and your family will need to know:

  1. Find a safe, reputable, professional facility, by asking employees and customers at feed stores and tack stores, and contact your local pony club (www.ponyclub.org).
  2. Be prepared to work hard. It takes diligence and sweat and patience to learn and be good at equestrian sports.
  3. You can ‘lease’ a horse until you’re sure you want to own one. Take some lessons before you commit to a specific horse and/or to the sport.

Plan to purchase properly-fitting
equipment and clothing:

  • Helmet
  • Breeches
  • Riding boots
  • Tack

Remember that there are horse events for all different types of riding. Dublin Downs, for instance, teaches English disciplines, but whether you’re interest is trail riding, endurance, Western riding or others (there are too many to list here!), there is something for everyone who wishes to be part of the experience being with a horse!

Other Things to Keep in Mind

It’s important to remember that when you first get involved with horses, you’ll need to be patient, to learn the basics and proper position and balance on the horse before you start trying to do more advanced riding. As stated earlier in this article, it takes good muscle tone and core strength to be able to balance and control your riding aids.

Says Leslie, “We sometimes get students who have learned to jump fences before they can maintain an independent position on the horse. This leads to the horse bearing the brunt of the rider’s mistakes. Being patient and achieving a good skill set means that you can be true partner with your horse, and that is a wonderful feeling.”

Also, you should be sure you’re looking for the horse you need, versus the one you want. There is nothing worse than seeing an inexperienced rider on an inexperienced horse. Novice riders need safe horses that have been trained for their intended job, so always take an experienced horse person with you when trying horses for sale.

About Horse Love

Horses are amazing creatures. They allow us to ride them and at times feel as though we have wings. That is why it is so important to respect this special gift they give us … allowing us to climb on their backs and gallop away. Beyond the physical fitness we gain from riding, horses infuse our lives with joy, enhance self-esteem, and teach empathy. What wonderful gifts!

If you love horses, you should be involved in equestrian sports. The beauty of the animal … the power and brilliance is something to behold. For Leslie, it’s about seeing her students succeed, not just in the show ring, but when they ‘get’ a concept they have been struggling with, or reach a goal they never thought possible. “I have a student who is in her mid-50s,” says Leslie. “When she started riding three years ago, she thought she might never do more than walk on a horse. Now she owns a horse with whom she is jumping courses and showing. And another student has moved up several levels in the 18 months she has been with me. She is ready to move toward a younger, more brilliant horse. These achievements make me happy!”

Some Final Thoughts

Leslie was quick to point out that inactivity is completely alleviated when a kid finds a connection with a horse. Children and adults alike will make time to exercise when it’s with a horse they love. And the benefits of therapeutic riding for children with disabilities has been proven beyond a doubt. Check out our article in the December 2012 digital issue found at www.athensMOVE.com

For more information about Dublin Downs Equestrian Facility, contact Leslie at 706-207-8542 or beverly174306@yahoo.com.
To learn more about eventing, visit
www.useventing.com.

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