Riding to victory

Senior competes in equestrian competitions


Photo courtesy of Lizzie Ward

Senior Lizzie Ward maneuvers through cones during a western horsemanship competition. She has been competing in equestrian since the age of 6 and has won six ribbons. “I have always had a love for horses, so when I turned 6 my grandma had started me in riding lessons,” Ward said. “That is how my interest in riding really started.”

Camille O'Neill, Sports Director

The barn is like a second home for senior Lizzie Ward, who dedicates her summers competing in equestrian, or horse jumping, competitions.

Her interest in riding started at the age of 6 when her grandma enrolled her in riding lessons. Ever since, she has competed in equestrian competitions across the state and has won six ribbons (two first place, second place, fourth place, and two sixth place) for her stellar skills.

She bought her first horse of her own, Prada, about three years ago, and they have developed to become a really good team. During training sessions, they’ve developed their chemistry as a team so they can be successful. 

Ward trains four to five times a week, and before the pandemic, she competed at a show every weekend. She starts her training by getting her horse ready: making sure the horse is groomed, and warming the horse up by slowly walking around the arena. This lowers the risk of the horse getting injured in the session. She also practices her skills by simulating what the competitions will look like and practicing precision with her movements. 

“From when I first met her to now she has progressed so much,” trainer Lenae Eisenmenger said. “She has so much confidence and drive in her training, and she is always striving to reach her goals. She is an amazing girl to watch ride.”

Traditionally, she competes in five events, or classes: western pleasure, western horsemanship, reining, trail and walk-trot. In western pleasure class, the judges judge the quality of her walk, trot and the precision of her gaits. In western horsemanship, she completes a pattern with up to nine different steps, and the horse and rider need to be in perfect union with one another. The reigning class is similar to western horsemanship, but she is asked to guide her horse through a series of circles, spins and stops. In trail class, she walks over logs and bridges, and the horse has to open and close a gate. There is a lot of preparation that goes into competitions, even the night before.

“The night before a show I usually wash my horse and make sure she is completely clean so I don’t have to worry about it in the morning,” Ward said. “Then the day of the show we leave the barn around 7:30 a.m., and once we get there you see other competitors warming up their horses. You have to go register for what classes you might want to do, and once that is done, you go and get your horse ready.”

Throughout her training, she has progressed immensely. She is always motivated to do better every time she trains and competes. She has not only progressed in riding, but learned some of the most important life lessons. Ward has applied these lessons to her everyday life.

“She’s learned to become more responsible and how to care for living things,” mother Gail Ward said. “It’s made her more independent and grounded, and she has also become more responsible.”

Ward will continue developing her passion for equestrian by competing in competitions for many summers to come, and improving her skills. She will also make memories that will last a lifetime.