Equestrian starts season with shows, progress, team-bonding ahead


Photo credit: Andrew Ryback

Evie Becky (’28) and her horse, Snowflake, jump a height of 2 feet 9 inches at the Traverse City Horse Show on July 16, 2021. Becky has been riding for 5 years and competes in the equitation and hunter categories.

By Allie Yang, Senior Reporter

The 15 members of Archer’s equestrian team pack a tack box before any show. These boxes contain everything a rider might need, including a bridle, boots and a saddle. Archer riders will not bring their tack boxes together until the Interscholastic Equestrian League’s first show Oct. 30. Despite this, the team’s season has begun.

The team’s co-captains are seniors Lucy Lassman and Letizia Oetker. Oetker has been riding since she was 8. This is her second year on the Archer Equestrian team, and she competes in two of the three disciplines a rider can show in: equitation and hunter. Equitation studies the rider, while hunter studies the horse. With the start of a new season, Oetker is focused on creating a team environment since individual riders can feel isolated.

“I hope we refine our sense of community because it’s really hard to rely on your team when you’re always practicing on your own,” Letizia said. “As captain, my goal is to try to bring everyone together so, when I leave, someone can take over and feel like we have a pretty solid team to work with.”

The team’s coordinator is science teacher and Sustainability, Environmental and Outdoor Education Specialist Casey Huff. Though the team has not competed yet, Oetker said she predicts members will demonstrate growth once shows begin.

“It’s always fun to watch the girls improve over the year,” Oetker said. “They’ll start at one point, and at our fourth show — we have four a year — they’ll be competing in completely different areas. It is really cool to watch them mature in their sport,…and I think almost all the girls end up moving up a notch within the school competitions by the end of the year.”

To track improvement in performance, Archer riders progress through four levels within the IEL: novice, freshman, junior varsity and varsity. The variation between levels lies in the height that they require horses to jump. The novice level’s height is two feet, and height increases in six-inch increments with each level.

“I might move up a level which will be fun,” 10th grader Goldie Bronson said. “I’m usually showing in the 3-foot-3-[inch] level at horse shows, but the IEL doesn’t have that option so I’m doing lower or higher. This year, I’m probably going to be doing higher, but that would mean I’m the only kid from Archer in the varsity category, so I’m not sure.”

Though Bronson is undecided when it comes to her level, she said she is set on improving her mindset during shows.

“Last year, I tried to have the best attitude going into the fourth show, but the stress caused my brain to become scrambled, and I was super negative,” Bronson said. “I thought ‘I’m not going to do well for my school.’ So I’m going to have a better attitude and [say] ‘I could do this.’ I got MVP last year. I’m going to channel that energy.”

Oetker, who continues equestrian for its “thrilling nature,” said she aims to have a more light-hearted outlook on the sport.

“There’s never a calm moment. You always have to watch yourself because you’re working with an animal,” she said. “It definitely keeps you on your toes…I want to have fun with it and not make it so stressful because the shows are a little stress-inducing.”

Bronson views the sport as a method of improving emotional health because of the connection it promotes.

“It’s kind of like you and the animal versus everything else,” Bronson said. “For instance, when you’re sad, you want to be with your dog or your cat. Horses are like that, but they’re bigger, they’re cozier and you can trust them.”

Oetker says new team members will contribute their skills to a successful, adaptable team.

“I think it’s going to be a really fun year because we have a lot of new riders,” Oetker said. “We’re going to be a mighty team, and some of the girls that joined us are really advanced, especially for their age. Just like last year, we’re going to continue beating other schools and [going] with the flow.”