The sport of horseback riding takes off in Westport

Megan Hagarty, who attends a private school in Stamford, rides in a competition at the Hunt Club on June 1, 2014

Eliza Goldberg

Megan Hagarty, who attends a private school in Stamford, rides in a competition at the Hunt Club on June 1, 2014

Sarah Ellman, Staff Writer

It’s a sport with no teams. A sport that requires both concentration and skill. A sport competed on four legs. It’s horseback riding.

Horseback riding is not a sport many students know about, but for some, including Tori Haber ’17, it’s part of a beloved daily routine.

“The difference between riding and a sport like soccer is that […] riding is a planned situation, while soccer is more dependent on other people,” Haber said.

A number of student riders compete in horse shows all throughout the country. Horse shows include a variety of different events including equitation (referring to when riders are judged on form, style and ability), flat (referring to when the horses do not partake in any jumping) and jumping, (referring to when horses and riders are judged on their execution of jump obstacles).

Carly Crossfield ’16 became involved with horseback riding through the Fairfield County Hunt Club when she and her sister participated in their summer camp and then signed up for lessons. “I became hooked immediately,” Crossfield said.

She said she enjoys seeing her friends at competitions and working with animals. “I think as a kid I really liked taking care of the animals, whereas now I love the competitive aspect,” Crossfield said.

Haber agreed with Crossfield in admiring the competitiveness of horseback riding. She said there are only about three months in a year when she is not on the road showing.

“Once you get to a higher class in showing, depending on what you qualify for, it is insanely exciting to see your name on a big screen and win the prizes that are given,” Haber said.

According to Haber, horseback riding takes a lot of brainpower. She said the majority of the mistakes made tend to be the riders’ fault.

“You have to think about what you are doing, what your course is and what you are doing wrong,” Haber said.

Haber has been riding horses since she was almost 4-years old and began riding competitively at Silvermine Farm in Norwalk, Connecticut when she was about 8-years old. Haber said her best experience with a sport has been with horseback riding even though she used to play other sports including soccer, lacrosse and skiing.

“I thought that I would miss being on a team when I stopped playing sports, but as individual as riding sounds, you are really on a team with your barn,” Haber said.

Another Staples horseback rider, Hope Penwell ’17 also began riding when she was 8-years old and has also continued with various other sports. Like Haber, Penwell finds horseback riding to be her favorite.

“I love the bond that forms between the rider and the horse,” Penwell said. The relationship between the horse and the rider is important and can make riding difficult if the horse doesn’t trust the rider, Penwell also said.

Trust, attentiveness and expertise are crucial components of the equation.

“It’s a sport that deals with an animal, so it’s not a sport where you can only rely on yourself,” Crossfield said.