Off to the races

For most people, the most satisfying feeling in the world is shooting a buzzer beater, sprinting across the finish line or scoring the finishing touchdown, but for freshman Maya Lee, it’s clearing fences and hurdles on horseback.

Lee has been horseback riding for about three years. At age eight, Lee started watching videos of professional equestrians and became entranced by the nature of the sport.

“Most people will say horseback riding is easy, or it’s not a sport. I really don’t think they should say that until they treat riding a horse as it really were a sport instead of just going on trails while on vacation,” Lee said. “It really is tiring, and it has its ups and downs and lots of learning curves.”

The hunter jumper events Lee competes in requires her to pay close attention to her individual technique. Hunter events are based on etiquette and how compatible a rider is with their horse, while jumper events are based on time and the height of the fence the rider is clearing.

“[Horseback riding has] definitely taught me perseverance, but I think most of all it taught me companionship because you have to communicate [with your horse] without knowing each other at all,” Lee said. “You can’t use any form of communication. You can only use gestures.”

Lee competed in the County End Year Championships in the walk trot class in November. In the walk trot class, there are more than 10 riders in the ring. As they ride around, judges critique them on etiquette and how well they interact with the other riders.

“The atmosphere was busy but lively. I concentrated the most on making the trip worthwhile, not just earning ribbons but seeing what I can accomplish and how much I can improve on certain things,” Lee said.

She placed first and is now eager to compete more often and further refine her skills in the future.

“[I felt] mostly pride and surprise, and it made me feel more confident overall. I thought about how I’d only been riding for just a few years and wow, I got this far,” Lee said. “It certainly made me feel motivated to compete in bigger events. I look forward to competing a lot now, thanks to the experience.”

By Sarah Aie, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of Maya Lee