Ride or Die

While riding a horse may be a hobby to some, the unique sport of equestrianism is much tougher than it looks.


Picture provided by Megan Carlson: Sophomore Megan Carlson poses with her horse Lucky. She is currently switching barns.

With the bottle of Gatorade clenched between her teeth, Kali trots around the arena  unphased. Kali, sophomore Ana Cortez’s favorite horse, spent the better part of the day bonding with the Gatorade bottle, something Cortez had never seen before.

“She was just carrying the Gatorade the same way a dog carries a bone. I had never seen anything like it,” Cortez said.

Horse riding is recreational but equestrianism, horse riding and dressage comes with a lot of work and training to be able to show.  Cortez, riding since the age of 4, showed around three times a month, participating in the jumping event. This event requires horses and their equestrians to overcome a set of obstacles in a set course. To prepare, Cortez must groom and bathe the horse, as well as braid its mane and tail.

Similarly, senior Catie Jackson has been riding since elementary school after going to summer camps. She shows her horse every two months, spending the time to prepare and train her horse at the barn. One of her biggest accomplishments include winning reserve champion in the 2015 Open Medal division at Greater Orlando Hunter Jumper Association.

“I worked for that achievement at horse shows for an entire year against dozens of people, so to place high was a huge accomplishment,” Jackson said.

Achievements aside, being an equestrian means creating a bond with their horse. Sophomore Megan Carlson treasures the faith she shares with the horses she works with.

“When I am riding a horse that I trust, and it trusts me, we get each other and are able to have a good ride because there is so much understanding between us,” Carlson said.

This trust is essential for an equestrian to control the horse. Sophomore Karli Marini also the values importance of being gentle to avoid rider injury.

“Horses are sensitive animals; it is important to be kind and patient with them. They have the power to hurt the rider at any moment,” Marini said.

Cortez recalls being able to build a connection with a horse that was unwilling to cooperate. Arriving from Ireland, the horse was jumpy and scared to complete basic skills. Eventually, over the course of four months, the horse began to be more comfortable with Cortez and jump over high heights.

“Building a relationship with horses takes time. You gain a relationship through spending time with them and even riding,” Cortez said.

Jackson also recognizes the need for patience when it comes to horses, even noting that spending moments with a horse is her most-liked activity regarding equestrianism.

“My favorite part of being an equestrian is getting to work with one horse for months, and sometimes years. You learn a lot about each other and it is really incredible to establish a close bond with an animal that you can’t understand and that cannot understand you,” Jackson said.

The relationship between horse and equestrian is not the only thing equestrians’ treasure. Cortez believes that equestrianism is a way to meet new people, “essentially creating a second family.”

Despite the trust and love built between horses and riders, there still are challenges that people face. Carlson faces difficulty with the heavy price of being an equestrian. Unlike regular sports one in their local community, equestrianism is a financially demanding sport. Taking into consideration the stable, equipment and horse maintenance fees all add up and that does not include training of the horse and riding lessons.  However, this does not stop her from pursuing her passion.

“When I have the money to show consistently, I work harder since I have the opportunity to win an end of the year award, so I ride multiple times during the week and focus on bettering myself each ride,” Carlson said.

This motivation and determination to succeed is something Carlson wants to continue, as she plans on making equestrianism permanent in her life. Carlson hopes to continue after college when she is “financially stable.” Cortez also hopes to support herself enough to too.

“While it is a very expensive sport, I always think about having a job that is able to support the financial needs of the sport,” Cortez said.

For now, Cortez, Carlson, Jackson and Marini are all focused on getting through school and juggling other sports. Marini spends a lot of time weightlifting, yet still finds time to be with her horse, making more memories. Her most coveted moment she remembers is seeing him for the first time.

“Seeing him being unloaded from the trailer for the first time was so special, because it meant an amazing, talented horse was all mine,” Marini said.

Show jumping, competitive equestrian event in which horse and rider are required to jump, usually within a time limit, a series of obstacles that have been designed for a particular show.


Dressage is a unique discipline for riding a horse.  It is as unique as Hunter/Jumpers, Tennessee Walkers, Three or Five Gaited Horses, Reining, Endurance, Eventing or any others that come to mind.


Expert horsemen judge hunters subjectively on the basis of their style and movement, conformation (in some classes), and overall picture, as well as on the quality of the rounds themselves. In the jumper divisions, judging is entirely objective, based on faults incurred for refusals, runouts, rails down, falls, and seconds over the optimum time.


The discipline, as we know it today, developed as a result of competition among fox hunters, following the introduction of the Enclosures Acts that came into force in England in the eighteenth century



Equestrian Events

Hunters “Subjectively judged, the modern show ring hunter must still exhibit the traits desired of a good field hunter— calm disposition, good manners, smooth gaits, steady way of going, and pleasant and efficient jumping ability— but must do so with style, presence and superior technique. Conformation, athleticism, disposition, and jumping form all combine to define a winning show ring hunter. A wide range of sections and classes is offered for hunter riders in today’s show ring, both over fences and on the flat.” (US Equestrian)

Dressage “A unique discipline for riding a horse. Dressage is an Olympic discipline, enjoying great international popularity internationally.  The addition of the musical freestyle to the required rides performed to win an individual medal has increased audience interest. “(Foothills Equestrian Nature Center)

Cross country “A thrilling discipline that tests the limits of horse and rider. Both the horse and rider need to be very brave and have complete trust in each other. The goal in cross country is the same as that of show jumping, be the fastest one around the course with the lease amount of faults.” (English Horseback Riding)