by Jensen Abhau and Ross Genetti
WAKE FOREST — Wake Forest High School not only has a successful football team, a storied softball team, wrestlers who vie each year for a conference title and a playoff-caliber basketball team, it also has many extracurricular activities off-campus.
Senior Hailey Mercurio, junior Stephanie Collins and senior Peyton Carrington are all competitive horseback riders.
Owning one’s own horse is rather costly, and it requires a lot of time and care to maintain a healthy horse.
“It is very expensive. I have a barn on my property. Maintaining a horse includes bathing, grooming, mucking out the stalls and just taking care of the horse,” Carrington said.
A healthy horse also requires a nutritious diet.
“They have to be fed twice a day,” Mercurio said. “You have to give them grain and hay.” Mercurio even has a chiropractor specifically for her horse.
Riding horses is a sport that you have to dedicate yourself too. It takes time to develop skill, train your horse and to expand a strong relationship with your horse.
Family influence helped Mercurio to get her start.
“My grandmother did because she used to ride. My mom got me a lesson with an instructor when I was two,” Mercurio said. “I also was given insight from my olympic trainer.”
Collins doesn’t own a horse herself but instead goes to a stable. Mercurio’s horse is named Skippy. Carrington has two horses named Rosco and Diamond.
“I compete over fences and flat. You basically jump with a horse and get judged on it. I’ve won first place, second place, third place and all the way up to sixth place,” Collins said.
Carrington has participated in both hunters and equitation, which is when a rider is judged on how they ride. She has won many championships and has been placed in multiple finals.
Mercurio used to ride equitation.
“It is all skill and a mind game,” Mercurio said. “I haven’t really competed in four years, but when I did I’ve won first and second many times”
The girls all have unique experiences when it comes to riding horses.
Collins once got to ride in Jamaica.
“We got to take the horses in the water. It was a great experience.”
When Mercurio was younger, she went to Kentucky for the World Championships and got fourth in her division.
“A bunch of American saddlebred riders that qualify travel to Kentucky to compete against some of the best people in the world,” she said. Mercurio also said that even Bill Gates was in attendance.
The competition for jumping is tough, and Carrington was surprised, but satisfied with her accomplishments.
“I didn’t expect to make it,” Carrington said. “We were in zone three, which is comprised of Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina. In order to qualify for zone finals, you have to be in the top 18 in your division.”
Riding a horse also comes with a risk of injury.
“I fell off one time and the horse kicked me,” Collins said. She had no injuries and said, “I was very lucky.”
Carrington was competing when she came to a tight turn.
“The horse started bucking, and I almost fell off,” Carrington said. “I was lucky enough to regain my balance before the next jump.”
“My horse was very skittish,” Mercurio said. “We were going down this back hallway, and he decided he didn’t want to go in there, so he flipped up and over on me. But I didn’t fall off. I’m like really talented.”
All three of the girls encourage those that don’t ride horses to try it out.
“Don’t be scared,” Mercurio said. “Have confidence. Just go for it and don’t hold back.”
Carrington said to get involved and find a barn.
“If you really want to work for the experience, it is totally possible.”
—Abhau and Genetti are reporters for the Forest Fire, the newspaper for Wake Forest High School and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Reprinted with permission.