Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Little-known club team has big aspirations

by Molly Young
Vanguard Staff Writer
Three years ago, two students created a club sport that regularly competes with about ten schools in Michigan and one in Canada. Do you know which sport this is?
Here’s another hint: the 20-person team holds regular practices to learn to control animals weighing ten times as much as them.
Give up? It’s the equestrian team.
About four times throughout the fall semester, the equestrian team travels around Michigan to compete with schools such Western, Michigan, Michigan State, Oakland and Grand Valley (who they beat last year).
There are two different categories for competitions. These categories are called stock seat and hunt seat.
If a person rides a stock seat, they do Western style horseback riding. In this style, riders are expected to show a well-controlled position while doing a walk, trot and a canter. In this seat, the rider must have excellent form and position.
“It might look like [the rider] is just sitting there, but they’re giving the horse subtle cues,” communications major Courtney Trares said.
“It’s really difficult, because if you shift your weight even an inch forward or an inch back, the horse responds to it,” nursing freshman Kara Daniels said.
“During competitions, you have to be able to adjust to different horses, while at the same time, keeping your technique,” Trares said.
On the other hand, if they ride hunt seat, they do English jumper style horseback riding. Often called the forward seat, English riders dress in the attire typically found at horse shows. Likewise, the horse is clean-cut and well presented. During competitions, Hunt seat riders are judged on not only form, but also how well they complete a pre-determined course of jumps and turns.
“The hardest part is knowing how to handle your horse when you come up to a jump, and your horse just stops,” occupational therapy senior and hunt seat rider Anna Sandelich said.
“Sometimes they’re stubborn and refuse to do what you tell them to. It’s hard figuring out how to persuade them to do something they just don’t want to do,” accounting senior Jessica Kovl said. Last year, Kovl’s individual score from competition qualified her for nationals.
As of now, the team agrees that as a whole, they are “middle of the pack” when it comes to competing, because some new members on the team have little or no experience.
According to Sandelich, riders have never even seen the horse they will ride for competition, and don’t even know which one it will be until they draw a horse’s name from a bucket.
“You can practice all you want, and look really great with your horse, but that doesn’t mean anything when you get to competition. You have to adjust to different horses, and get inside the mind of a thousand pound animal and learn to control it,” Sandelich said.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A horse lover’s heaven

published: October 10, 2009 09:25 pm      print this story  
A horse lover’s heaven
Kentucky is the place for equine enthusiasts
The majesty, beauty and speed of horses have captured people’s imaginations and hearts for centuries. Books, movies and songs have raised some to almost mythical status.

For horse lovers — and there are many in the Danville area — one of the best places to learn more about the magnificent creatures is the Lexington, Ky., area. Farms, museums, racetracks and parks help horse fanciers indulge in their passions — whether you’re a child wishing for a pony or an adult who’s owned horses for years.

One popular place is the 1,224-acre Kentucky Horse Park, located just outside Georgetown, Ky., near Lexington. During its main summer season, the park is home to some 115 horses representing about 50 breeds.

Anne Morris of Danville has been to the park three times.

“If you like horses, this is the place to go. Anything you want, it’s there,” she said.

The first couple of visits to the park were quick trips. But, the third time, she visited the farm in 2004 as part of a tour, and was able to spend more time there.

She especially enjoyed the International Museum of the Horse, the blacksmith’s shop and the Parade of Breeds, during which the audience learns about different breeds.

The park also is the burial place for the great Man O’ War, the most famous thoroughbred racehorse of the 20th century. Buried with him are some of his offspring, including Triple Crown winner War Admiral, who was upset by Seabiscuit in their famous match race in 1938.

Morris also enjoyed a short movie about how America was shaped by the horse. In addition, the Hall of Champions is a place where visitors can meet retired racehorses, many of whom have made a name for themselves.

The park also offers horseback riding, but Morris passed on that because she has a horse of her own stabled near Danville — a Tennessee walking horse named Blackjack.

Candace McMaster of Champaign and her husband, Steve, took a short a trip to Kentucky several years ago “just to see this amazing place,” she said.

McMaster also is a sponsor/volunteer with Crosswinds Equine Rescue in rural Sidell. Crosswinds rescues at risk-horses, brings them back to good health and condition, and places them in good quality homes.

At the Horse Park, McMaster enjoyed the museum with the history of many famous horses, such as Secretariat, and the exhibits.

They also saw at least two live performances — one of past Derby winners and the Parade of Breeds.

“It was very exciting to see actual champions like Cigar,” she said.

“For anyone who loves horses this is a wonderful experience ... and you can walk around at a leisurely pace, decide what shows you want to see, wander through the museum, visit live horses in the stables.

“If you love horses, it is so much fun and very family friendly.”

Meeting the horses was the best part of the park, she said, as well as learning about the history and different breeds of horses.


Kentucky has many other horse tours and activities.

McMaster said she visited Claiborne Farm and met the great Secretariat, adding, “I will never forget him — he was like an ancient horse god you read about in mythology.”

Another interesting site is the 92-acre Old Friends, a retirement farm for racehorses. More than 40 thoroughbreds are enjoying their golden years at the site, just outside Georgetown, Ky.

The farm has several famous names, including Black Tie Affair, the 1991 Horse of the Year, and Awar, who earned millions during his career.

Another favorite is Popcorn Deelites, who was cast as one of the six horses to play Seabiscuit in the 2003 film starring Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges. In the film, Popcorn can be seen breaking from the gate, as it turned out that was his on-screen specialty.

Another celebrity at the farm is Ogygian, the last son of Damascus, a horse of the year and the 16th ranking greatest thoroughbred of the 20th century.

During the free tour, visitors may feed carrots to the horses and pet them, while learning more about their illustrious careers.


— is the site for the Kentucky Horse Park. According to, the park is about a five-hour drive from Danville.

— is the site for Old Friends near Georgetown, Ky., a retirement farm for racehorses.

— In Vermilion County, you can learn more about Crosswinds Equine Rescue by visiting its Web site, or calling (217) 649-7915. The site is located at 8182 E. 200 North Road, Sidell.