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There are only a few things people can do or say to me make offended. Telling me that horseback riding isn’t a sport is at the very top of my list. As for other equestrians, it is a problem as well.
I have been riding for 12 years, and when someone asks if I participate in a sport, the answer is yes. When they ask what sport, I tell them equestrian. The overwhelming response to that is, that’s not a sport! I could get technical and tell you it was named the hardest sport in the 2012 Olympics or just get real and ask you to “hop on” a two thousand pound animal that can and will injury you if you don’t know what you are doing. But go ahead; call it a “club.”
Clubs, by definition, are a group of persons organized for a social, literary, athletic, political, or other purpose. A sport is an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature. Since the Redcoats are not officially counted as a sports team at Radford, what they are unknowingly saying about horseback riding is that it requires no skill or physical ability to perform. That is not the case at all.
Meredith Urick of the Radford Redcoats Equestrian Team has been participating in her “club” for 11 years, 4 of which she has been riding at the competition level. Her own horse, Thomas, which anyone could ride if they just hopped on and successfully could make it around a 3-foot equitation course without any rider penalties. Rider penalties occur when you: fail to push your heels down in the stirrups. When you do this correctly, your ankles and calves should feel like they are going to fall off after your course.
In addition to simply “riding” this humongous animal, (as if that wasn’t work enough) equestrians also participate in various other exercises to work all the muscles they’ll be using while they ride.
Aerobics, wall sits to work your quads, ballet to improve balance and grace, and cardio at the gym are just a few workouts done to prepare for riding lessons.
All one has to do is catch our horse, which usually involves about 15 minutes of jogging because he wants to play games, tacking up and carrying a 15-20 pound saddle to place over the horses back (which is usually taller than your head), then mount and ride for the entire hour. Muscles in our inner and upper thighs, our quads, gluts, calves, lower back, and abdominal muscles. But thats no big deal.
Equestrians work their bodies and horses hard to prove that we are not just a club. They have competitions to show off their skills, just like any other sports team. Equestrians definitely should be given the recognition of being called a sports team.
When the Redcoats were asked their thoughts on when people say equestrian isn’t a sport and that riders are not athletes, the response was unanimous. Co-president Katie Kayes said it best, “Get on without stirrups, get on bareback, or just try to get on.” If that doesn’t tell you how hard we work to make our “club” look easy, I don’t know what will.