Why Equestrian is a sport

Marcjanna Taylor – Opinion Columnist

Over the weekend the Gustavus Adolphus Equestrian Team participated in their first hunt seat of the season. It was a two day show which is typical for equitation.
Only three of the team members had rode during the show, one of the three participated in the jumping section but all three participated in the flat section. Sophia Solari, a member of the GAC equestrian team had participated in the jump section for the class 8 and the flat section for class 7. For the first day she had received 4th and 5th place for her respective classes. For the 2nd day She had received a sixth place ribbon for the jump section and a first place ribbon for the flat class. Erin Fisher, the team’s co-captain was in the rider class 2A- Pre-Novice Hunter as well as the team’s risk manager, Celeste Thalhammer. Both had received 6th place for their respective section. For the second day Celeste Thalhammer had received 2nd place ribbon for her class. GAC was not the only college team to participate, there were ten colleges who all had 3 to 5 members participating. These participants included UofM, University of Winona, St.Cloud and others.
But how does describing GACs equestrian team relate to the topic at hand, “why equestrian is a sport”? Before we can get into more detail we must describe what defines a sport. According to Merriam Webster, a sport is “an activity that causes physical exertion and or entertains an audience.” You may be asking yourself ‘how does equestrian riding cause physical exertion? The horse is doing all the work.’ My answer to that is yes, the rider physically exerts themselves, because without the rider the horse would do nothing. Both the rider and the horse communicate to each other like teammates through various methods. The rider can nudge the horse’s side with the heel of the rider’s foot to increase speed, use the reins to steer the horse into a direction or to get the horse to stop or slow down.
That is not all, equestrians perform a task called “posting” in which a rider stands in their stirrups and sits back down repeatedly while riding the horse. Posting requires a lot of core strength, since, without it a rider would be flopping around on their horse. By describing the team, the classes and the area in which equitation takes place we can infer that equestian is a sport. But you may ask ‘how the points are decided? If Equestrian is a sport shouldn’t there be a goal post or basketball hoop to dictate how many points a team or this case team received’. The placement is based on the points they receive from the judge during their round. They receive points based on their showmanship and if they can successfully complete the tasks asked of them by the judge.
The judges ask the participants in the flat section if they can walk, trot, and canter. For context, walk is the normal pace of a horse, trot is a bit faster, and canter is the fastest a horse can run for equitation. Of course this is referring to if the rider can make their horse perform these tasks. The judges also watch if the riders can keep close to the rope fence, if they can avoid crossing the arena and smoothly transition their horse from one task to another. We can conclude that Equestrian is a sport due to it being physically exhausting, being competitive, and an entertaining sport. I hope for the next show more Gusties will show our team some love!