To that end, Cherokee County students interested in participating in horseback riding have found a different outlet that gives them an opportunity to compete in the arena that they love.
A group of students from Creekview High School formed a team to compete out of In Your Dreams Farm in southwest Cherokee County. Under the direction of coach Kelly Ryan, the team recently competed in the Riders Interscholastic Federation of North America’s ninth annual North American National Championships and won third place in the high school team division.
The Creekview team was led by junior Brienna Windom and senior Lauren Greer, with Sarah Greer and Kirsty Houston also among the group.
The team competed in all six disciplines: hunter equitation on the flat, hunter equitation over fences, dressage, Western showmanship, Western horsemanship and Western Trail.
Sarah Greer and Windom earned first place in their respective classes of hunter flat, while Windom and Houston took first in their hunter fences classes. Sarah Greer took second in dressage and horsemanship, while Lauren Greer took second in Western Trail and horsemanship.
Windom said the team was surprised with its strong showing.
“We didn’t think that we were (going to place well) because the other teams had more members in multiple levels, but we as a team placed really high in all our classes,” she said. “I’m really proud of everyone.”
The RIFNA championships are team classes divided into skill levels. Each level is defined by a letter, with “A” being the highest level of competition and “H” the lowest. Each level is then separated by different maneuvers and the height of jumps, which increase in difficulty. Teams benefit from having riders in as many of the skill levels as possible.
Lauren Greer, the Creekview team’s captain, said that part of the competition is strategy.
“We know where our members are strongest, and at the end of the day, it comes down to who does the best for the team,” she said. “(We) hope they do well so the team can earn points against other teams who have a lot of members but might score lower.”
Houston, a sophomore, is looking forward to future seasons. She is taking this experience as a learning one.
“We did our best and we got some amazing scores,” she said. “I am so proud of us, and next year, we are going to come back even stronger. We can only get better.”
Also competing in the event as an individual was Sequoyah sophomore Ashley Bates. She took first in her class in hunter over fences and hunter on the flat.
Similar to athletes in other sports, there are scholarship opportunities available to equestrian participants.
Lauren Greer recently received an RIFNA scholarship and plans to use it to attend Georgia Perimeter College, where she will major in business and accounting.