A horse-powered sport: eventing

News Photo by Mike Gonzalez From left, Lauren Kinsel, Mallory Misiak, Micaela Goebel, Tonya Comfort, Susan Moffit, Taylor Brown, and Katelyn Orban pose in front of a fence obstacle at Ken Wooster Quarter Horses on Feb. 7.

ALPENA — Eventing, according to the United States Equestrian Federation, is best described as “an equestrian triathlon.”

The Olympic sport consists of three phases: dressage — which local eventing teacher Susan Moffit said is a form of horse dancing, cross country — a racing segment that includes jumping over chicken coops, miniature log cabins, and running through terrain that a horse may encounter naturally, and show jumping — a precision test to see how accurate horse jumps are.

“It’s a combined score of all three disciplines,” Moffit said. “The rider and the horse have to be a real team. They have to spend a lot of time together, get to know each other, and understand that if they come up to an obstacle they haven’t seen before, they need to trust each other enough to get over that safely and correctly.”

Moffit knows this all too well as she has trained event horses for over 40 years.

She and her husband moved up to Alpena seven years ago to retire, but after learning of a need for eventing teachers in the Northeast Michigan region, Moffit said that she’s had a thrill bringing the sport to the area.

News Photo by Mike Gonzalez Cowboy Classic, right, approaches Harvard, left, to horse around at Ken Wooster Quarter Horses on Feb. 7.

“I got to talking to different ladies that have heard of me and asked me, ‘Are you doing any teaching?'” Moffit said. “I said that maybe I could teach a little bit. Well, it snowballed when I found other riders who wanted to learn eventing, so I said ‘Let’s do it.'”

When she first started teaching, Moffit was not sure where to train the horses at a higher level. She said that the horses needed an indoor facility to reach higher success levels, which was provided at Ken Wooster Quarter Horses, a boarding location that’s been up since 1954 and also has indoor training facilities.

Moffit learned of the place because two of the girls she trained with boarded at Ken Wooster Quarter Horses.

Now, six riders — along with their horses — are under her teaching and learning the ways of eventing. The four riders who do not board at Ken Wooster’s will train mostly out in their own fields, and then train in the facility a day or two per week.

“There’s so much more to the sport than meets the eye,” Tonya Comfort, one of the riders, said. “You have to be in shape — your horse has to really be in shape. You have to be super committed to it because it’s very challenging.”

News Photo by Mike Gonzalez Lauren Kinsel rides her horse, Trot Out My Tuxedo, at Ken Wooster Quarter Horses on Feb. 7.

Each rider is completely different from the other.

Some riders are young, with the youngest, Mallory Misiak, learning the sport at 13 years old. Other riders are adults with professions, a family they’ve built, and an interest in eventing.

“When Susan moved up here, I saw that she offered eventing and it had always been a dream for me,” Taylor Brown, a rider, said. “Ever since I was little I used to run my parents’ printer out of ink printing pictures of horses jumping and stuff and putting them on my wall.

“So when she moved up here, my horse hadn’t been cantered yet,” Brown continued. “He was so new to being ridden, so Susan has been there for pretty much every step of the way.”

Some of the other horses, such as Comfort’s horse, Cowboy Classic, were racehorses before. Moffit has helped redirect their training to be an event horse, which – for both the rider and trainer – has been an adventure.

News Photo by Mike Gonzalez From left, Harvard, Micaela Goebel, and Susan Moffit pose as the other horseriders continue to practice at Ken Wooster Quarter Horses on Feb. 7.

To learn how to event, some of the most important things to do is to show them new obstacles and create consistent communication between the rider and horse.

This means that for the past year, all of the riders have gone across different fences around Northern Michigan just to show these horses new obstacles they might see.

“And when you start a training program, you have to stay with it and you have to go with the level and the speed that that horse can learn,” Moffit said. “Some horses learn faster than others and that’s not a good or bad thing. It’s just an individual thing. But it takes these girls all of last year to train over many different fences all over northern Michigan – just to show the horses ditches, and banks, and all the different obstacles out there so they know what to do.”

The riders last season went to schooling, dressage, and showjumping shows to prepare for one of the largest USEF eventing shows for horse riders: May-Daze at the Park H.T. at the Kentucky Horse Park, north of Lexington, KY.

The event is a three-day ordeal, going on from May 24 to May 26. May-Daze is a national competition where the six riders will use their training to compete in the novice division, learn from the new experience, and potentially take home some ribbons.

News Photo by Mike Gonzalez Micaela Goebel rides on Harvard for practice at Ken Wooster Quarter Horses on Feb. 7.

“It’s probably one of the biggest shows I’ve ever been to,” Micaela Goebel, a rider, said. “I think it’d be a great opportunity to go somewhere that I’ve never been, and just being at the Kentucky Horse Park I think it’s going to be just a surreal experience for an equestrian.”

“I’ve never been to Kentucky, but I’ve also never really gotten this far in my horse career, either,” Lauren Kinsel, a rider said. “All I’m really hoping is to learn something and maybe place in something.”

News Photo by Mike Gonzalez Susan Moffit, equestrian eventing teacher, looks around at the riders training around Ken Wooster Quarter Horses on Feb. 7.

Courtesy Photo Taylor Brown and her horse, Doc, jump an obstacle that might appear in cross-country jumping events during an equestrian eventing competition.

Courtesy Photo Katelyn Orban and her horse, Exotic Legs, jump over a memorial bridge model that might appear in cross-country jumping events during an equestrian eventing competition.

Courtesy Photo Mallory Misiak and her horse, Gallant Romeo, jump over an obstacle that might appear in cross-country jumping events during an equestrian eventing competition.


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