By Sue Moore
Ten girls from Vicksburg High School were so proficient in their horsemanship that they won their district and regional competition to advance to the state finals in Midland October 13-16. They finished in fourth place at state out of 10 teams that were competing in Class A.
Equestrian has been a varsity sport in Vicksburg for a year and has been a club sport since the early ‘90s. Coach Dawne Steele took over the program from Ruth DeBoer in 2009. She is assisted by Mike and Karin Fleetwood and Kaiti Fink, all volunteers. The team has won its district contest seven years in a row, then competed in regional competition. This is the second time going to state, placing 7th previously. It competed at the highest level with teams from 10 other Michigan high schools.
The girls participatef with teams who qualified fielding 10 riders or more including Rockford, Ludington, Goodrich and Lakeland. The scoring is rigorous with up to 100 points for each event and 70 points being average. The rules for each type of ride are lengthy, requiring horse and rider to exhibit showmanship and teamwork and focusing on the abilities of the rider.
The riders compete under the auspices of the Michigan Interscholastic Horsemanship Association that began this program for high school riders in the 70’s. It began to blossom in the 1990s, when more schools begin to sponsor teams, primarily on the east side of the state.
It can be an expensive proposition, said Steele. The members of the team generally own their own horse or have access to one. They have spent years of training the mount and taking lessons themselves. They pay for housing, feed, private lessons, apparel, saddles, travel and now the expense of competing at the state competition over four days in Midland. This year they have been grateful for a donation from Frederick Construction and others to help with these expenses.
“The entire team worked hard, stayed focused, gave their all, and always kept the goal ‘to do our best’. For four long days, they showed superb sportsmanship and helped define the word ‘team’. Ally Barga was our top point earner at state,” Steele said. Barga won both classes in flag race, first in barrels, and first in two-man relay with partner Taylor Dent. Bailey Miracle earned first place in western showmanship. Hannah Flickinger earned first place in both Hunt Seat Showmanship and Hunt Seat Equitation. They had numerous seconds and thirds, along with all our other placings, that when combined earned our fourth place overall.”