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Equestrian team prepares for season

With several changes to the club this year, Western’s equestrian team has high hopes for this season. The team consists of 30 women and two men. It is divided into two different styles of riding: Western and English. “Our English team looks really strong,” said Keelin Balzaretti, vice president of the equestrian team. “We have a lot of people competing this year who I am really excited for.” English style coach Suzy Huizenga joined the team this year. She started lessons with the team on Monday, Oct. 12. “So far I’ve heard that things are going really well,” said Emily Wollebek, president of the equestrian team.     With the new style of coaching, Huizenga is hands-on and actively teaching them. The English style team, who sent three members to nationals last season, hopes to build off of their new coach and success of the past. “As a team we would really love to go to zones, which is like semifinals, and then sending the whole team to nationals would be awesome,” Wollebek said. Until this year, the team has never enforced its members to be physically active outside of riding. “Last year we tried to emphasize exercising before our lessons, but that didn’t always happen,” Balzaretti said. “It really helps that [this year] we will be more committed to being a healthy and a strong team off the horse.” To accomplish their goals this year the leaders plan on making them go to the gym at least once a week along with the two days they are taking lessons. “Other than that we are trying to be more cohesive as a team,” Wollebek said. “If we want to actually send the whole team to nationals we better be able to work together.” Their season goes through fall and winter, which is where they get the chance to earn enough points to go to the semifinal or national competitions. The first competition is Saturday, Nov. 7, and Sunday Nov. 8, in Corvallis, Idaho. “It will be very exciting,” Wollebek said. “It’s also great because the way our shows run is you are judged by how well you ride this horse you have never ridden before and so for our new members it is definitely a learning curve.” The team has been focusing on team bonding, especially between the two different riding styles.   “We have a lot of team events that have nothing to do with riding horses or competing that will make it easier for people to build bonds between the two disciplines,” Balzaretti said. The team has built some lasting friendships through the bond of horses, but they are excited to compete and hopefully get to nationals, Balzaretti said. “I really love having a group of people that I can share my passion with,” Wollebek said. “It’s a lexicon that not a lot of people understand.”

Junior English rider Keelin Balzaretti warms up with Mia on Thursday, Oct. 15, at Twin Maples Farm in Lynden, Washington. // Photo by Daisey James

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