By Justin Hunter
Freshman Katie Burgess is unique among Churubusco High School athletes this year. She’s participating as an equestrian.
“No one we know of at Churubusco High School is into this particular sport,” her mother, Judi Burgess, said. “There are horse events in 4-H, but nothing quite like this.”
Katie starting horse riding when she was 7 and began private lessons in 2012. She most recently competed in different variations of jumping events in which she placed third, fifth and eighth place in October.
Katie’s favorite type of competitions are with the Interscholastic Equestrian Association. The IEA offers a unique type of competition that lasts from fall to spring.
“It’s quite unique because you join a team and they all draw random numbers, and you get assigned a horse you’ve never working with before,” Burgess said. “They pull you into the course, and boom, you’re being judged.”
The IEA competitions work more in Katie’s favor, since she does not own her own horse.
“It’s the competition that we knew she had a chance in,” Burgess said. “The other competitions are different, because usually the winners have the best horse. We didn’t want to spend $50,000 on a show horse. So, when we heard about this when she was 9-years-old, we knew this was the type of competition for her. It levels the playing field. At the time, it was only available in Indiana at the college level. But by the time she was in middle school, they had it available for middle school and high school students.”
Katie has a chance to finish first place in the IEA season in her last competition in February. She just needs to tally a few points to clinch the title.
Katie says that the communication between her and the horse is what makes her passionate for the sport.
“There is a lot of communication when riding between me and the horse,” she said. “The horse has a general idea of what you want out of them, but they still want to make shortcuts. There is a certain connection between me and the horse.”
Katie wants to buy horses of her own one day and become a trainer as a side job. She plans to attend college with the goal of becoming a pharmacist.
“As a parent, I can say it’s a great sport,” said Burgess. “Everyone who is involved in it is very grounded. They have their goals, and they know what they want to accomplish.”