A devoted Fan of horseback riding

Striving for synchronization |Intent on achieving perfect harmony with her horse, freshman Sarah Fan showcases her performance at a horseback riding competition in Norco, California

Striving for synchronization |Intent on achieving perfect harmony with her horse, freshman Sarah Fan showcases her performance at a horseback riding competition in Norco, California

“How do I look while riding? Does my horse seem relaxed? Are my heels down? Is there enough contact with the horse’s mouth? Where are the other riders?”

These are the simple questions freshman Sarah Fan ponders while completing her second lap around the track on her horse in order to receive a perfect score for her event, English Pleasure. She is competing against nine other riders for one of the top spots. If she wins this, months of muscle soreness and endless practices will have paid off. 

“During competitions, I feel stress and pressure but at the same time I am enjoying it,” Fan said. “I want to do well and I think everyone else wants me to do well too.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Fan regularly competed in English Pleasure bracket of 13 to 18 with the goal of perfecting her horse form and looking her best while riding the horse. During the competition she got judged on how well her and her horse are able to perform under pressure by maintaining composure and remaining calm.While in competitions, Fan wore a helmet, white shirt with a dark jacket, gloves, khaki pants and tall boots.

“I really enjoy the competitions because it’s a really fun experience for me to take part in, “ Fan said. “To be [at the competition] with a lot of people that share the same common interests is amazing.”

During both competitions and practices, Fan rides a bay Arabian horse named Remy. In order to perform at her best, Fan must form a connection and build a strong foundation with her horse. She regularly trained with Remy through simple riding techniques that allowed the horse to perform its best for show events. 

“I’ve been riding her for a while now,” Fan said. “When we are riding we just have this bond that helps us move forward and stay together.”

Fan practiced five times a week for two hours at Canyon Lake Farm Training Center in Chino. During these practices, she worked with Remy on improving her equitation, building more strength, and communicating with each other. Staff members at the training center watched Fan and other students to better improve movement and help them prepare for competitions. Fan also rode with other students in her age bracket at the training center.

“I like the practices that we do. Most of the time, they try to recreate competitions and I always have the support of the staff there,” Fan said. 

Fan found out about the sport in fourth grade from a friend and began training at Canyon Lake Farm Training Center for fun. Once she was in seventh grade, she realized that she had a passion for the sport and decided to start pursuing it competitively. Fan actively participated in competitions all across the country from San Diego to Arizona. 

“I have always wanted to ride horses and never really got the chance until my mom signed me up for a class, “ Fan said. “Then from there, I really just enjoyed being able to ride the horses and spend time with them.” 

Fan had to take a seven-month break in which she was not able to ride horses or compete.

“Due to COVID-19, I have been disappointed since I do not get to ride the horses as often and it’s been different with limited practices, less contact with other riders and less interactions,” Fan said. 

When she was not on the horse practicing or competing, Fan helped other beginner riders learn how to properly mount the horse and ride it. She dedicated parts of her practice and spent time before competitions to help others out.

“The next best thing to riding a horse is helping someone else ride the horse,” Fan said. “I love being able to help others learn how to ride because it makes me happy to see more and more people want to compete in this sport.”

By Samuel Au, Feature Editor
Photo courtesy of Sunny Fan