Walsh jumps to success through horseback riding


All photos contributed by Jessica Walsh

Walsh competes at various horseback riding competitions across the country.

Jessica Walsh ’25 has been riding horses for around 10 years. She got into it because her cousin rode, so she and her sister grew up around horses and fell in love. Walsh talks about what people commonly misconceive about horseback riding and what makes the sport so special.


Q: How does the sport work in general? 

A: I ride at a barn called West Lane, and it’s managed by our head trainer. She’s the one that finds all the shows and enters the kids that want to go. She enters us in the class that is our level for what we’re currently practicing. […] We spend a few weeks prior practicing and making sure that we’re ready. And then we go to the show, and we spend a day or two, depending on when the class you’re competing in, practicing at the show. And then you just go and do your class.  


Q: What would you say is your best moment or proudest moment from a particular competition?

A: I got reserve champion in my second show on my current horse [Zippy] and [which is] second best out of the entire division. I wasn’t expecting that because it was only my second show on the horse, and it was a new environment.

Q: Personally, I find horses quite terrifying, because I’ve heard a lot of stories of getting knocked off or bitten. Do you have any stories about that? How do you keep going after that?

A: all horses are different, and it really depends on the day. My horse, Zippy, he’ll have one really good day, and then the next day he’ll throw me off. […] There was this one time where he had jumped this particular jump the day before, and then the next day I rode and I got to this particular jump and he stopped at it. So I go back around, and he stops at it again, and I fly over his head and land on the other side. It’s not always so much fun when that happens, but you have to get back on and keep riding.


Q: Riding often gets ignored or not acknowledged as a sport especially in school. What do you think people should know about riding? Why don’t people give it as much respect? 

A: I feel like when people say that it’s not a sport, most of those people think that the person riding isn’t actually doing much. But what they don’t think about is that horses have a mind of their own, and they’re a conscious animal and they have other things that they want to do. […] Riders make it look like they’re not doing much, but they’re actually doing so much more than people would think to get the horse to actually move how it’s supposed to and to jump over jumps.


Q: What about that team aspect of other sports? Do you get that or do you kind of miss that or do you prefer not to have as much of that? 

A: I think that there’s somewhat of a team aspect because it’s never just you riding from your barn. You make friends at your barn, and it’s not just you going to the show, it’s your entire barn going. You’re not necessarily competing with the same people from your barn […] but you’ll have other people there that are cheering you on.