What started with her mom seeing a Facebook ad has turned into a life-long hobby that sophomore Katie Romijn has become passionate about.
Taking the chance to try something new evidently benefited Katie, and now, horse riding has become a prominent part of her life that took root about six years ago.
“I started riding [teaching] horses that my barn owns for a couple of years and learning the basics,” Katie said. “I’ve had a couple of horses before [my current horse], Malone, so with each one, I’ve learned more.”
When Katie rides, it allows her to temporarily forget her worries and just enjoy her time at the barn.
“It’s just so fun being out in the arena jumping all the [obstacles],” Katie said. “It’s kind of hard to describe [it] if you’ve never done it before, or [are] just talking about it. But it’s super fun, and you kind of forget about everything else.”
As much as the riders get attached to their horses while competing, it’s not uncommon for a rider to outgrow their horse’s skill level and have to move on to another horse of more experience.
“I kind of just grew out of [my past horses],” Katie said. “My first horse was a pony named Arizona and she couldn’t jump as high as Malone. Once I exceeded her levels, I moved on to my other horse—my previous horse before Malone—which was Wyn.”
Malone in particular had already performed at multiple shows before Katie got to call him her own, and it was nice for her to have a horse that could keep up with her evolving ability level.
But of course, their bond has grown as they practice together since Katie got him last September.
“[Malone is] very adventurous,” Katie said, “a little crazy, and sometimes has a mind of his own. But when it comes to doing his job, he does it really well. He loves to cuddle and get rubs and all that stuff.”
While bonding with her horses is something she enjoys, all the work she puts in during practice pays off when she and her horse travel all around Michigan during the summer to show off their skills to the judges.
Malone is a Dutch Warmblood horse that performs with the show name “The Red Baron” even though his name is Malone out of the ring. Malone and Katie compete in Hunters and Jumpers competitions.
During the Traverse City Spring Horse Show, for example, Katie and her previous horse, Wyn, won the show, and it was a big moment of growth for her.
“I love hanging out with my barn friends,” Katie said. “[Competing] is a good way to bond with my friends and my horse; I learn the most from my trainers at shows too.”
Through this rigorous but exhilarating sport, Katie has taken life lessons from her time riding and implemented them into her life.
“Riding has definitely taught me patience,” Katie said. “It has taught me confidence because if you go into the ring unsure of yourself and/or your horse, the judge will notice, and it can hurt your score and cause you to overthink things.”
Like most endeavors, you learn as you go on. Katie has certainly made progress as she continues to grow into and out of different horses and change her mentality in the ring.
As she improves, Katie hopes that her riding career won’t end with her high school career.
“I want to ride for the rest of high school,” Katie said. “I don’t know what I want to do for college yet; I think it would be fun to join an equestrian team, but some of them are pretty competitive, and some [colleges] just don’t have teams at all.”