Sophomore excels in equestrian

Nikki Lyssy

Imagine the beauty of the sounds of nature as hooves pound on the ground and a horse leaps over a rail, carrying his rider to the first-place championship as the crowd applauds. For sophomore Abby Albrecht, this is a reality. Abby has been riding horses for 10 years, and was recently named the first-place state champion in Equitation, a style of riding based upon the rider and horse as one team together.

For the past decade, Abby has been competing all across the country, sweeping the competition circuit with a wide array of wins. Her roots in the sport run deep. Originally, her older sister was the rider and had a pony she didn’t want to sell. She passed it down to Abby, who had never dreamt of riding.

“I never really wanted to ride when I was little because I would break out in hives [from a combination of the horses and hay] and have really bad allergic reactions and asthma. It was never really a sport for me.”

The first time Abby rode a pony was when she was 5 years old, and she had no fear whatsoever.

“My trainer just wanted me to ride, so she just popped me on that pony,” Abby said. “I wasn’t scared at all. I will ride any horse that’s given to me.”

To this day, Abby remembers how she felt the first time she rode.

“It just made me so happy,” she said.

Although she usually has no fear of horses, one horse in particular scared her for good reason.

“Sometimes in the winter, when the horses are more excited, they can make a move any second and throw you off,” Abby said. “One of my past ponies would take off [with me on his back.] The third time I rode him, he bucked me off, and I hit the ground so hard.”

Abby didn’t want to continue riding the wayward pony, but her trainer insisted, and she liked him in the end. Abby described the feeling of falling off a horse’s back.

“It’s really weird,” she said. “You see random visions. You see the horse and [think,] ‘I’m going to be run over’ and then you see the ground. Usually your head hits the hardest.”

Abby can always tell when a horse is going to buck her off because their emotions are often in sync.

“I can just feel the horse get nervous,” Abby said. “The horse is only as nervous or riled up as you are. You just have to be calm and trust them.”

Abby explained that she came to love the sport because of its uniqueness.

“The fact that it’s a different type of sport and isn’t like football [makes it unique]” Abby said. “It’s much cooler. The horses are really [great] animals to bond with.”

Abby owns two horses that compete in two different categories. Miguel is her Equitation horse and Oliver is her hunter jumping horse. She loves both of them and has formed a special bond with them over the years.

“I really trust the horses I have now,” Abby said. “I’m a spoiler. I give them so much food and so many treats. Riding them and tacking them up [also helps us bond]. Your horse really starts to know you. Whenever I walk in the barn, both of their heads perk up. They know I’m there.”

Equitation and hunter jumping require two different sets of skills.

“Since Equitation is more judged on the rider, it refers to the position and form you ride in,” Abby said. “

There is no form selected or the form was deleted.
your heels down, shoulders back, sitting up tall.”
Hunter jumping is a style of riding in which the rider goes around a course based on accuracy. It is based upon the grace and elegance the horse displays while jumping.

“In hunter jumping, form doesn’t matter,” Abby said. “It should, but it doesn’t.”

Because of these guidelines, most girls compete in equitation, while most boys compete in hunter jumping, “because they aren’t good at form,” Abby said.

Abby competes in the highest division for junior riders, anyone 18 or younger. She has ridden in many competitions and won eight championships and first-place awards in the past year. One of her favorites is the annual Spring Gathering Horse Show located in Katy, Texas. She loves it because of the special prizes that are awarded.

“Spring Gathering I love because they give out Tiffany and Co. crystal plates for first place,” Abby said. “It’s probably the coolest show ever.”

A few weeks ago, Abby won a competition in Tyler, Texas, with a clean sweep in all eight of her equitation classes.

“I’ve never had a clean sweep, and it was such a great feeling,” Abby said. “It made me feel proud of what I’ve done and where I came from, and all the hard times finally paid off.”

When she doesn’t win a competition, she remains positive.

“If I keep trying hard [to win], it’ll happen,” she said, “so I don’t let it bog me down.”

Through horseback riding, Abby has been able to meet friends in and out of state.

“I have friends from not only Texas but all over the country now because of traveling [for competitions],” she said.

The hardest part of riding , according to Abby, boils down to one thing.

“I think it’s really just the commitment [that’s so hard],” Abby said. “All little girls want to ride, but as you grow up, you have so many other things to do. Some people are naturally good and they only ride once a week and still do well.”

Abby has found that hard work is the key to success.

“Sometimes I don’t want to put the hard work in when my trainer’s gone and I know I could get away with not pushing myself,” Abby said, “but that’s really what I think will make or break you in this sport.”