BURBANK (CBSLA.com) — More young equestriennes are getting an early start to their competitive careers on horseback, as the age of the next generation of riders continues to get younger.
While some young children get involved in beauty pageants and other various stage-talent activities, one of the most rapidly-growing, and healthy, activities among young girls is equestrian riding.
Whether it be for competition or recreation, athletic activity involving horses is continuing to grow, and it is not unheard of for some to find themselves on a pony before they take their own first steps.
About 240 of these riders took part in the ETI competition at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank over the weekend, which broadly featured riders from two to 70 years of age, some of whom shared their experiences with CBS2/KCAL9’s Joy Benedict.
“I’ve been riding, well, since I was like two months old, but I just started riding for real about a month ago,” 10-year-old equestrienne Musette Buckley said.
One of the appealing aspects of the growing competitive equestrian youth community is that most shows offer a wide range of activities and classes, which the rider can sign up for at will, based on their own riding abilities and confidence.
While some decided to take part in more discreet flat-ground classes, such as Dressage or English Pleasure, others pursued faster, more challenging activities, such as jumping and barrel racing.
“This is a Tennessee Walking horse, so I’ve been doing a couple of classes for Flat-Walking instead of trotting,” Buckley said.
Still other equestriennes see something more in the activity of riding or competing on horseback at such a young age.
“It’s very fun and I think everyone should learn, because it teaches you a lot of responsibility,” 14-year-old rider Courtney Heys suggested.
Heys, who won her first-ever championship belt buckle on Friday night at the ETI convention, for barrel racing on her horse Harley, also says she has noticed the sport’s recent growth.
“I’ve seen it grow a lot,” Heys said. “Like, I’ve gotten some of my friends out here, and they’ve actually started riding more.”
Professional equestrian trainers, too, have taken notice of the increase in younger girls taking to the sport early.
“Girls and ‘Equestrian’ kind of goes hand in hand,” trainer Kelly White of Don-E-Brook Farms said. “It started off, it used to just be high school, and now junior highs, so yeah, it’s growing big.”
The Interscholastic Equestrian League, which serves some 100 schools in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, has reportedly doubled in its size over the past decade.
The development has led to an increase in shows and competitions, which Buckley says all riders harmoniously take part in for the same reason.
“My favorite part about competing is just being on the horse, and having fun.”