Equestrian club stresses teamwork
It’s quite another to be athletic while dressed in a sequined jacket and knee-high boots.
In the hot sun.
On a horse.
Talk about pressure. No wonder a little team support is welcome.
This fall marks the second season for the Badger High School Equestrian Club. The five-member club—all girls—is a member of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Horsemanship Association, which was founded in 2007.
The association gives high school competitive riders the opportunity to compete as a team rather than on their own, said Jacquie Gritzuk, the team’s coach.
“In a 4-H competition, it’s just you and your horse,” Gritzuk said. “If you win, it’s all you. But in a WIHA competition, if you win, your team wins.”
No individuals advance without the rest of the team, she said.
“You all have to succeed to move on,” Gritzuk said. “If someone’s not ready, the whole team is going to lose.”
Gritzuk is a 2010 graduate of Badger High School and a founding member of the school’s club.
On Saturday, she was the silent partner behind club members as they rode in speed and performance classes at the Walworth County Fair. When member Shelby Peteler led her bay horse Sammie out of a stall to line up for an English pleasure class, Gritzuk was there, brushing and spritzing the shining horse.
While the fair is not part of the association’s competitive lineup, team members sat together and talked between classes.
“It’s great being around the animals and the people,” said Badger Equestrian Club freshman Jessica Schmieg, 14. “You make so many friends, and you all have horses in common.”
The association’s season runs through September and October. It includes three shows in a six-week season. Teams earn points at shows in order to qualify for state finals competitions, said Rick Welsch, association president and Walworth County Fair saddle horse superintendent.
Schmieg wasn’t competing Saturday but was at the fair to support her teammates. The team atmosphere is especially welcome because Schmieg has only been riding for four years, she said.
“Some of these girls have been riding since they were 3,” she said. “By the time they’re 8, they are better riders than I am.”
Schmieg said that—for better or worse—the key to competing successfully is doing just what the old cliché says.
You have to get back on your horse when—not if—you get thrown, she said.
Schmieg remembers the first time she fell hard and almost didn’t get back on.
When you do try again, you’re rewarded by getting thrown regularly, she said.
“You’re going to get thrown off once a month or so,” Schmieg said. “You get over it and get back on.”