Equestrian riding is not like other sports
Despite what other people might say, to 2013 New Richmond High School graduate Alex Kerber equestrian riding is a sport and yet it is nothing like any other sport out there.
“Equestrian riding in my opinion is very different than any other sport,” Kerber said. “For every other sport, even if it is a team or individual sport, you are able to communicate and work with your team so that everyone has the same message and the same goal. But with horses it is purely based on the amount of effort you put in. There is no way to tell your horse that you expect perfection.”
Kerber started riding after a trainer at a riding facility close to her home offered to give her lessons when she was 10, and she hasn’t stopped since. She got her first horse as a Christmas present after she had been taking lessons for a year and has owned three horses since.
“There wasn’t really a specific reason why I got into horses,” said Kerber, who is a freshman at UW-Eau Claire. “I remember telling my mom one day that it was something I wanted to do, and she told me to start saving up for it. I was too young to remember details, but my parents worked it all out so that I could receive lessons and train under Tina Langness, and I continued to until I left for school.”
When Kerber was in fourth grade, she started to compete in open show competitions throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota and then moved up to compete in Paint and Pinto shows. After graduating high school and starting classes at UW-Eau Claire, Kerber joined the equestrian club team at the university and started competing on the Western team.
“I wanted to be a part of the team because I have a passion for working with horses, and I knew this would be my way to continue to do this throughout college,” Kerber said. “We take lessons once a week at a local barn in Menomonie under our wonderful coach and trainer Karla Friedli as well as her assistant Tammy Olson. Other than lessons, we go to shows located in River Falls,Crookston, Minn., Fargo, N.D., and St. Paul, all at the local college’s equine facilities.”
Competition for Western shows often last two days, with Kerber participating in one event per day. The events are slotted at different difficulty levels from 11-15, with 11 being the beginner level. Kerber competes at level 14.
“Each class is relatively the same and pretty boring if you're a spectator,” Kerber said. “But we do all of the gates including walking, jogging and loping. And then, depending on the judge, we may be asked to do more difficult things, such as counter cantering or doing a pattern.”
For each competition, the riders on Kerber’s team at UW-Eau Claire ride different horses picked at random for each show, which means there is no time to warm up with any specific horse or get to know them.
“They bring them into the center of the arena where we get on, and as soon as everyone is ready the class begins,Kerber said. “Before I was a part of this team I did have a horse, Jaida, or her registered name, Everybody Dance Now, for roughly four years and worked with her almost daily throughout it.”
Although Kerber is more used to riding her own horse, she has enjoyed the challenge of riding different horses for competitions at the college level.
“I am used to riding my own horse on a regular basis and this forces me to become more diverse and accepting with what I get,” Kerber said. “We also are only supposed to focus on ourselves while riding. We are not supposed to worry about what the horse is doing, even if it is running around like it’s a race. This is very hard for me to do because I am so used to working as a team, but it will make me a better rider overall.”
But at the end of the day, all Kerber wants is to ride.
“My goals are mainly to have fun and become an overall better rider,” Kerber said.