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October 9, 2013

Local equestrians changing face of sport

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CHICKASHA —

“You have to think about every movement and your movements have to be subtle,” Verser said. "You have adjust every part of your body and see what they like and what they don’t like.”

And even the best of riders face some dangers that come with equestrian competition. For example, Verser, who has been riding since she was seven, was thrown forward from the horse she was on Tuesday when it suddenly decided it didn't want to jump the oncoming fence. Somewhat shaken, there was no question about what she had to do next: just get right back on.

"You have to block everything out and just say ‘I’m going to make it over to the other side,'" Verser said. "It’s difficult because you have to overcome your body’s natural instinct to lean forward or do things to make the horse hold back.”

Like most sports, it is a mental and physical game. Verser's mother, Karen, who works as a nurse, says the natural worry has worn off as she watches her daughter compete.

“Anymore, it just comes with the territory," Karen said. "It’s just like any other sport.”

And just like any other sport, Kaitlyn and her teammates must watch what they eat, exercise outside of riding to better stay in shape, and, of course, train almost daily.

 For now the local chapter is concentrating its efforts toward numbers. Six riders are currently part of the team; three in middle school, including Armstrong's son, Wyatt, and three in high school, which puts them at the minimum operating capacity.

“We have to have three riders for each team. If a rider gets sick, we can’t compete.”

One thing that hinders getting the word out is finding riders via word of mouth in a region where horse riding and competing in shows is still very much for the individual. Team riding is more common on the coasts, Armstrong said.

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