HASLETT -- A sport that does not require a ball, but the control of large, living animal has created opportunities and life long memories for a small group of girls at Haslett High School.
The school annually forms an equestrian team, of around seven to 10 girls, to share the aspiration of continuing their love of horsemanship.
“Most of the time, riders are immersed in this world,” Cheryl Levine, the team’s volunteer coach, said. “The girls who ride, probably 98 percent, it just does so much for them. It requires them to sacrifice social life, teaches responsibility, and prioritizes care of horse before themselves.”
Most students at Haslett High are unaware of the equestrian team, because it is listed as a club, according to member Morgan Miller. Last year’s yearbook does not mention the team, except for three small, individual pictures.
“It’s kind of one of those unknown gems that we have been able to keep going,” said Holly Miller, the coach of Haslett High School equestrian team.
The team has kept the program going through volunteer help and by borrowing expensive equipment.
Levine volunteered a lot of her time to Haslett equestrians over the past 13 years. She the leader of Haslett’s 4-H club, a youth development and mentoring organization that includes horse training and showing. She also lends out horses and equipment for meets."
Equestrian and 4H are close to my heart. I know how much positivity can come from it,” Levine said. “I am lucky enough to be able to give back and even luckier to give back in an area I love.”
Levine has works closely with Miller. Levine’s barn, Heart Pond Stables, has been the meeting place for most Haslett equestrians. There are 12 available horses, a closet full of show clothes, and plenty of experienced staff members.
There are three district meets, occurring on the first two weekends of the school year, against teams from around Michigan. Because most girls on the team only compete during the high school season, the sport becomes expensive.
Veterinarian bills, vaccinations, feed, grain, grooming, housing, and many more expenses go into the care of horses Equestrian and horsemanship expenses include additional costs of shows boots, clothes, and other attire. This is what makes it difficult for some people to get in and stay involved with this sport Miller said.
The volunteer time and borrowed equipment has given these girls opportunities that have positively impacted each team member’s life.
“I think it has impacted a huge part of my life,” equestrian Lexi Perry said. “It has been awesome getting to meet people who have the same interests as you.”
There are no individual medals during high school competition. Haslett placed fifth out of five teams in the B division (divisions are based on the number of team members) in this year’s meets. Miller described it as a “building year” because some girls had new horses and were being introduced to events.
The team plans to get the word out to the school, by delivering messages in the daily morning announcements and creating informational posters to hang on the club board.
Unlike other high school sports, the equestrian team relies on volunteering and borrowing in hopes to continue competing in a sport they are so passionate about.
“I think what makes our sport so special is that not only do we have to play a sport that we control animals, but we have to communicate with a living thing to accomplish that,” esquestrian Morgan Miller said. “Not many people can say they talk to a living animal and make them understand you.”