Horseback riding is a sport that requires full commitment, courage and a particular skill set, one based on mental fortitude and bravery to even get up on the horse.
For members of the Old Towne Equestrian’s middle school team, they can’t picture their lives without their horses. Now their collective passion, as well as their recent successes in tournaments throughout the season, has propelled them to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association National Finals taking place April 26-28 in Pennsylvania.
Myrna Treuting, head coach of the team, couldn’t be prouder of the girls.
“We’ve had a pretty strong team this year,” she said.
To get to nationals, individual and team performances throughout the season are crucial in getting the points necessary to qualify. First, if the team has enough points, it qualifies for regionals, and the top two teams then go to zone finals. The Old Towne team won the IEA Zone 2 Final March 16, securing a spot in nationals and bringing home a trophy back to the Old Towne Equestrian Center barn. Two members of the team: seventh-grader Maggie Graney of Garden City and eighth-grader Ali Treuting, Myrna’s daughter, also qualified individually to compete at nationals.
“This is the first time that the middle school team has [collectively] qualified for nationals,” the head coach said.
According to Treuting, the team is the top ranked middle school team in all of New York State.
Fellow coach Lauren Sobel said the journey has not been easy.
“They are very dedicated, hardworking and they show great sportsmanship,” she said. “Going to nationals is very exciting for us.”
Sobel said most of the girls have been riding at the barn their whole careers, and started at a very young age, some before they could
In preparation for nationals, the coaches have made sure the riders are securing extra practice and are getting used to riding without stirrups.
In many of the competitions, riders draw the name of the horse they will ride out of a hat the morning of the event. It is a way of evening the playing field as many riders become comfortable riding with their own horses.
Treuting said it’s the luck of the draw sometimes, and it doesn’t come down to the horse but to the skill of the rider. She mentioned her team has experience riding many different horses and can easily adapt to a new steed.
“I think going to nationals is a great opportunity to advance and learn to ride different horses outside of your comfort zone,” seventh-grader Tess Hairston of Selden said.
Graney added the season has been pretty good, and it’s really cool to go back to nationals this year. The young girl had qualified individually for nationals last year as well.
The members of the team are close with one another, and though they don’t go to school together, they relish the time they spend with each other at the barn.
“It is exciting, you get to learn together and get to grow as friends,” Hairston said. It’s nice because we get to see each other more often and do things that we love.”
Treuting has owned the Old Towne Equestrian Center for close to 30 years and started a horseback riding team about 15 years ago, just around the time IEA was created. The organization’s mission is to introduce equestrian sports to students grades four through 12.
In addition to the middle school team, Treuting coaches a high school team and the Stony Brook University Equestrian Team as well.
“I think we can do quite well at nationals, we have a very good team,” she said. “We are so proud of them, they work hard and they deserve it.”
The Old Towne Equestrian Center is located at 471 Boyle Road in Selden.