Interscholastic Equestrian AssociationSep 30, 2019 11:00AM ● By Melissa Mendonca
A Horse of Course
Story by Melissa Mendonca
Photos courtesy of Interscholastic Equestrian Association
IN ANY SPORT, the opportunity to compete with others in a public sphere can build camaraderie, sharpen skills and create connection, all while opening space for friends and family of participants to gather in support as spectators.
In a community dominated by western and dressage styles of horse riding, the Central Valley’s Hunters and Jumpers were left with long and expensive commutes to horse shows in Paso Robles and the Bay Area for many years. That is until a group of volunteers, led by Exeter veterinarian Dr. Doug Anez, owner of Pacific Crest Equine, started the Central Valley Hunter/Jumpers Miniseries in 2018. The series of four shows allowed hunters and jumpers of all ages the opportunity to participate in day-long competitions to accumulate points toward awards at the end of the series.
“It was Dr. Doug Anez that came to me about starting a horse show around here,” says Jenny House, series manager. “He kept seeing all of these horses coming into his practice and they didn’t have a place to go and show. He came up with the idea.”
The series encouraged interest in hunting and jumping by making it accessible to locals, particularly children. House still rides every day and co-owns Sequoia Hills Stables in Elderwood with husband Chuck House and sister Marily Reese. She often fields calls from parents who say, “My daughter is horse crazy and she wants to learn to ride.” She’ll gauge interest in hunting and jumping, noting, “There’s nothing like going over a fence with a horse.”
While it’s not uncommon for girls to become “horse crazy,” costs associated with keeping and showing a horse can be substantial. “We’re trying to keep the costs down because horse shows have become really expensive,” House says of the series.
She now works with the Interscholastic Equestrian Association, which is fielding nine teams within the Central Valley region to compete on horses brought in from local horse owners. “Rather than every child having to take their horse to a show, they draw the horse they’re going to ride from a hat,” she explains. “For people who can’t afford to take horses to horse shows, it’s a really nice way to get into shows. Several barns in the area are helping because everyone wants to see it be successful in the area.”
The Interscholastic Equestrian Association is open to student riders in fourth through 12th grades from public and private schools as well as barn teams. No rider needs to own a horse.
Hunting and jumping are similar but separate disciplines that compete in different arenas during shows. According to House, jumping appeals to those “with a need for speed.” It can also be done on many horses and ponies, without a need for high-dollar animals. Hunting is a more refined practice that requires more discipline and typically a more skilled horse. House asks potential hunters, “Do you get excited about the precision?”
Skills learned in both hunting and jumping translate to more than the arena, says House. “The kids get confidence. If you can handle a 1,000-pound horse, you can handle a lot. It really gives them a sense of accomplishment. It carries over in the rest of their lives.”
When not organizing opportunities for young people to hunt and jump, you’ll be sure to find House out riding her own horse. “At my age (73), I call it fossils over fences. But by God, I’m still out there riding.” •
Interscholastic Equestrian Association
Find them on Facebook
Local teams located in Clovis,
Woodlake and Exeter