Sophomore Hannah Block has always had a love for horses. As every child does, she dabbled in a few different sports, but none had ever stuck. In 2008, however, she found her passion at Willow Creek Ranch when she asked her mom if she could try horseback riding.
Block believes it’s important for everyone to understand that horseback riding is indeed a sport, a dangerous sport in fact.
“You’re putting your life in the hands of an animal that cannot speak your language,” she said.
The ranch isn’t her only arena; Block usually competes once every month. She attended Santa Barbara Nationals in 2015 and competes at the Ventura County Fair every summer. In 2013, she took home the Year End Champion award at El Sueño Equestrian Center.
According to Block, some life lessons aren’t directly taught; they’re experienced.
“Riding has taught me patience, determination, and communication,” she said. “I believe that with each ride, with each fall, with the realization that falling off could result in serious injury, it really does humble you. It’s made me realize just how strong I am; that I am willing to put my life at risk to do something I love.”
Sophomore Elaine Sanders is also an equestrian and believes that the sport is much more than just simply riding a horse. She considers it like learning a foreign language.
“You have to be able to communicate with your horse to be able to do more complex movements. You gain a bond between the horse and rider which is stronger than most friendships,” Sanders said.
The sport is both a financial and time commitment.
“Riding horses doesn’t just involve riding horses. So much goes into caring for a horse and training a horse and all that extra work is so overlooked,” Block said.
Senior and fellow equestrian Gabi Paredes understands the responsibility that comes with riding horses.
“You’re responsible for exercising and making sure your horse is conditioned and healthy for competitions or training,” Paredes said. “Also, having a good bond with your horse and spending quality time grooming and caring for your horse. ”
Block doesn’t own her own horse, but is a ‘catch rider’ for her barn. Her job is to ride and help train the new horses that come in, not spending too much time with just one.
“I feel like riding different horses gives me a new perspective each time. Owning a horse at this point in time wouldn’t work for me, but hopefully some day in the future I will have the time and money to have my own,” Block said.
Block hopes to make her passion into a career. She is currently a working student who trains young kids and teaches them the basics of horseback riding. This summer she has plans to take over her trainer’s horse camp, putting her in charge of both the campers and counselors.