Equestrian team preps to compete

Each day at the barn is always filled with something to do, whether it’s working on the horse’s abilities or the rider’s. The Newbury Park equestrian team constantly prepares to participate in competitions as a team and individually.

Megan Vlietstra and Chloe Staiano, sophomores, have been riding for as long as they can remember. Staiano even stated that she could ride “before (she) could walk.”

The equestrian team is split up into four “classes” or divisions; novice, freshmen, JV and varsity. The levels differ according to how high the horses are required to jump in competition.

“It’s very stressful. There’s usually a lot going on and it’s kind of chaotic, but most of the time, it’s a lot of waiting in between your classes and when you’re ready to go. That’s when the stress kicks in, and there’s a ton of people,” Staiano said about her competitions. The equestrian team travels to various locations, including the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, the Santa Barbara Equestrian Center and the Sylmar Hansen Dam Equestrian Center.

“We’re going to the Oaks early next year, and I’m really, really excited about that, because it’s a big horse show in San Juan Capistrano,” Vlietstra said.

Megan Vliestra, sophomore, poses for a photo with her horse, Rhett, during practice. Megan Vliestra/With Permission

Megan Vliestra, sophomore, poses for a photo with her horse, Rhett, during practice. Megan Vliestra/With Permission

In addition to traveling and participating in the Interscholastic Equestrian League, or IEL, some riders take part in competitions at their barn.

“I just went to Santa Barbara with them, and then I show against some of the kids in my barn because some of us have the same classes, but I go to a lot of outside shows too,” junior Klarissa Barley, president of the equestrian team, said. Each year, the riders watch their skills grow as they score high in their competitions.

“The new show season is going to start so that’s going to be really fun, and I’m definitely starting to rack up more points with the IEL, or the equestrian team this year,” Barley said. “I think we have a really strong team this year and I think we’re more of a team this year. Everybody on there is a really good rider so I think we should be doing well.”

Their schedule is also jam-packed with working on different aspects of horseback riding, which is what makes equestrian team a core part of the riders’ daily lives. Their schedules range from three times a week, to every day, which requires multiple trainers.

While training, the horseback riders work on the horse’s ability to jump, the rider’s ability to control their horse, and dressage, which tests a horse’s obedience, strength, flexibility and balance. “I have one main trainer but there’s two at the barn,” Vlietstra said. “One is a dressage, one is jumping (trainer), and I go with the jumping one, but then every now and then I’ll go with the dressage trainer.”

The equestrian team members not only train their horses, but themselves as well. It is important to be “aware of everything that’s around you, because the horse can see stuff that you’re not aware of and it’s a lot scarier to them,” Barley said. A big part of riding is also recognizing “that sometimes it’s not the horse’s mistake. Sometimes it’s yours.”

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