Some would consider horseback riding not a sport, however, that is not the case for Godwin senior Sydney Hundley.
Hundley has been riding horses since she was nine years old.
“The first time I rode a horse was in the summer of 2012 as a birthday present. I have been riding and competing ever since,” said Hundley.
Being a competing equestrian as well as a successful one requires time and practice. Hundley’s practices are done at Haverhill Farm in Ashland, where she spends three to four days a week “in the saddle” and works in the barn five to six times a week.
Hundley does tireless work on show weekends, arriving at the barn during sunrise and leaving after sunset.
As an equestrian, it is one’s responsibility to keep the horses safe and healthy at all times, convenient or not. The cleaning work that comes along with horseback riding is not fun, but necessary so “our partners [the horses] continue to live a happy life,” said Hundley.
Hundley said, “the best riders have trained immensely, on and off the horse, to be fit and work the muscles and brain power that is necessary to pilot a large animal around and over a course of 10+ obstacles.”
To maintain the athletic ability and health that is necessary to be a competing equestrian, Hundley goes to the gym or runs when she is not riding or working.
Hundley’s partner is named Swayzee and has been with her since October of 2020.
“When he arrived, he did not like much human contact and was not well behaved… now he can do everything and is an amazing animal to learn from,” Hundley said.
Hundley is coached by Godwin science teacher Jessica Boppe. Boppe is the head trainer at Haverhill Farm. Boppe grew up riding horses in the area and rode in college. She then became a certified trainer after college.
“I really look up to her – she is one of the more talented professionals I’ve had the gift of learning from, and instills confidence in all the young riders she teaches. Jessica has taught me since I was 13,” said Hundley.
Competition wise, Hundley has been fortunate enough to travel to multiple different venues and states to challenge other equestrians. The farthest she has traveled for a competition is Perry, Georgia, but frequently competes at multiple clubs around the state including Deep Run Hunt Club in Goochland, and Haverhill Farm in Ashland.
Hundley’s favorite competition “would have to be the recent TIP (Thoroughbred Incentive Program) Championship Show in Aiken, SC in October. I took my ex-racehorse, who is a thoroughbred, that I have been training and competing with for a year.”
Hundley feels the competition was very rewarding to compete in and place well.
“After a year of overcoming many obstacles that brought us to the level we are now, I got 4th and 9th out of 25 other horses in my division and 8th overall out of the show,” said Hundley.
Although the TIP Championship Show in Aiken, SC was Hundley’s favorite competition, her best accomplishment was the Hunt-Seat National Finals in Perry, Georgia in April.
This competition was included in the 2020-21 IEA (Interscholastic Equestrian Association) competition season, and Hundley competed within the top 18 high school youth riders in the country.
Hundley’s long-term goal is to keep horses in her life; whether that means continuing to compete at any level or just riding them for fun.
“Ideally, I would get accepted into college and be a part of their equestrian team and compete throughout my college years,” said Hundley.
She is hoping to be accepted into the University of Louisville, Randolph Macon, or Virginia Tech.
Hundley also hopes to receive a degree in Equine Administration with an Accounting minor. With this, she can build her own equine training facility or be a barn manager after graduation.
Through riding horses, Hundley has been lucky enough to meet her best friends and find something she would love to do for the rest of her life.
Although this is true, Hundley says “it is a big commitment – time consuming and expensive”.
Being an equestrian has taught Hundley many important lessons. If you want to try it, Hundley offers advice.
“Overall, being an equestrian has provided me with structure and confidence. If any part of you wants to try horseback riding, whether for fun or for competition, go for it,” said Hundley.