UK Saddle Seat team returns home as champs

Aspen Gage

The UK Saddle Seat Riding team had an eventful day Sunday, April 2, coming home champions of the 2017 Intercollegiate Saddle Seat Riders Association (ISSRA) Championship. 

The ISSRA is composed of nine universities, including UK, EKU and WKU, which were all present at the competition. UK riders placed from first to sixth in each of their respective disciplines, and combined overall for the top award. 

With a team that is as talented as it is large, coach Stephanie Sedlacko-Brannan enjoys seeing the camaraderie and support her team shows. Come competition time, Sedlacko-Brannan says it is sometimes hard to pick out who would best represent the team for points.

Saddle seat riding is style of horseback riding designed to show off the high-stepping action of certain horse breeds, according to Sedlacko-Brannan. However, in competition, the sport is about the rider just as it is about the horse. Judges look at several things when watching a performance, including the walk, trot and canter of the horse. Equitation, which is the positioning, skill and leading of the rider is also taken into consideration. 

“Preparation for the championship show entails the team meeting four times the week of the show,” Sedlacko-Brannan said. “For most of the members, the meetings the week before consist of two team practice rides and the third, sometimes fourth are for the team to meet-up to help wash and prepare the horses and tack for the show.”  

When the saddle team is not practicing for events or caring for their horses, they are out on campus going to class and taking tests just like any other student. Contrary to what some might believe, not all the members are in studies related to equestrianism. To be on the team, you don’t have to be in any equine-related major. The UK Saddle Seat team encourages people from all walks of life to join, as long as they share the same love for horses.

“We have several riders come to us that have never ridden before or had maybe never ridden a trotting breed horse before,” Sedlacko-Brannan said. “I have had two riders that have never ridden a horse until they joined the team. I greatly enjoy the challenge of making these accomplished saddle seat riders.

Biology senior and team president Audrey Schneider has ridden horses since the age of four, and joined UK’s Saddle Seat Riding team her freshman year. For her, being on the team is more than a sport she does as an extracurricular. It’s a way to learn about herself, horses and sportsmanship. 

“Just like everybody has a bad day once in a while, not every ride is a good one but there’s always something you can learn from it,” Schneider said. “Horses are some of the greatest teachers.” 

Both Schneider and Sedlacko-Brannan said that the best way to get involved is to just come out. 

“Many people bring their friends out to ride and they end up loving it so much they join the team,” Schneider said. “Because we offer so many riding levels, someone who is not as experienced as a rider can join and compete at a novice level.”