Debut of Athenian’s First Competitive Equestrian Team

Athenian launched an equestrian team this year.  They had their first horse show this past weekend and all the riders ribboned in every class.

Athenian’s equestrian team participates in Hunt Seat, a form of English riding.  Competitions include both flat and over fences for show hunters (horses) and participants are judged on the horse’s movement and form as well as the rider’s ability. Riders are placed in different classes according to ability and experience.

For those of you unfamiliar with the “game play” of a horse show, riders are expected to draw a different horse per class.  One of the challenges of this competition is that the riders have never ridden their horse or sat the tack until they start the competition.  Riders are given a horse list with names, height, breed, personality traits, and riding hints.  They jump two warm up jumps and then officially complete the jumps.  Each rider performs a series of “tests” drawn from the following:

  1. Asked an appropriate horsemanship question that is tailored to the rider’s ability level.
  2. Halt
  3. Sitting trot.
  4. Two point position at the walk and/or trot.
  5. Figure eight at trot, demonstrating change of diagonals.
  6. Figure eight at canter on correct lead, demonstrating simple change of lead.
  7. Change Horses
  8. Ride without stirrups.
  9. Change leads down center of ring, demonstrating simple change of lead.
  10. Canter on the counter lead. No more than eight horses may counter canter at one time.
  11. Half-turn on forehand and/or half-turn on haunches.
  12. Jump a shortened course.
  13. Trot a jump not to exceed 2’6”.

Show Results

Saturday’s show was at Monte Vista Christian School in Watsonville.  Although rainy, muddy, and cold, the team performed with excitement and success.

Niki drew one of the smallest horses for one of her classes, a 12.2 hand pony and Ginger drew the largest horse there, 17 hands. As one of the tallest and shortest riders respectively it was an entertaining challenge for both of them. All the riders handled their horses well and are looking forward to their next show, a home show at Iron Horse on Jaunary 19.

Class1A Varsity Open Equitation o/f 2’6″
Ali – 2nd

Class 4A Future Intermediate Equitation o/f 2′
Ginger – 6th

Class 4B Future Intermediate Equitation o/f 2′
Niki – 1st
Peyton – 4th

Class 6A Varsity Open Equitation on the flat
Ali – 2nd

Class 8A Junior Varsity Novice Equitation on the flat
Irena – 6th

Class 10A Future Intermediate Equitation on the flat
Ginger – 3rd

Class 10B Future Intermediate Equitation on the flat
Niki – 2nd
Peyton – 6th

Athenian’s Equestrian Team:

Ali Hirt ’15
Niki Hirt ’17
Peyton Freeman ’17
Ginger Freeman ’19
Irena Volkov ’16

Find Out More

Want to learn more about the relatively new school sport of horse riding?  Read the Rules and Regulations from the Interscholastic Equestrian Association, founded in 2002.  Also take a look at Wikipedia’s article on Hunt seat, which explains the various aspects of the competition.

Did You Know?

Years ago, Athenian had its own horse pasture, as shown in this picture from the 1980 view book. We assume this field is up above the current baseball field.  The aspiring historians of the school would love to hear from alumni who were here during the era of horses.  We know that Head of School Sam Elliot had his own horses from 1988-1992 but there were no student horses at that time.  If any alumni have memories of where the stables were located and what year the horses left campus, we’d appreciate your help in filling in this gap in our collective memory!  Respond in the comments below, post to Athenian’s Facebook page or send an email to