By Lois Kim
Junior, Hannah Untarya, presses her leg against Emmy, her horse, encouraging her to engage her hind legs. As the pair approaches the jump, Untarya slides her arms to grab onto Emmy’s mane and lifts herself up from the saddle to prepare for Emmy’s jump. For most people, riding on a horse regularly seems like a dream come true. For Untarya, it is her blessed reality.
“I started equestrian in third grade, after the first time I rode a random trail. I really liked it and wanted to do it more often. I took a break sophomore year but I missed it and joined Granada’s equestrian team this year,” Untarya said.
Although Granada Hills Charter High School does have a team, members practice and compete individually, usually in different divisions. However, members compete for GHCHS and all their points are added up for the school.
“When people think of sports, they don’t think of horseback riding because it seems like the horse does all the work. But it actually takes a lot of work. You have to be well-balanced and have strong thigh muscles and a good core, because you need to be able to brace yourself to prevent falling,” Untarya said.
Equestrian is a unique sport because it is one of the only sports that requires close connection with an animal.
“Personally I’ve always had a love for animals so I enjoy working and being around horses as often as I can. The horse that I ride can be really stubborn sometimes so it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get that flawless result,” Untarya said.
At first, Untarya rode dressage, where riders are judged on their ability to control the horse, and horses are judged on their lateral movements. However, she is now slowly transitioning to hunter, where judges evaluate how controlled and responsive the horse is when jumping.
“Dressage and hunter are kind of like trying to get the horse to dance. In order to do well in hunters, you need to know how to do dressage,” Untarya said.
Although horseback riding may seem intimidating at first, it is very easy to join. Untarya recommends researching barns around the area. For example, Chatsworth has many different barns where people can learn how to ride, so checking the websites would be a good start.
“Overall, equestrian is a really cool experience that I thoroughly enjoy. It’s a great work out and you get to work with animals, so I would encourage anyone to try,” Untarya said.