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Badger equestrian team riding high



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October 29, 2013 | 04:15 PM
The Badger High School Equestrian team was the Division C reserve state champion this year. They finished second out of 11 teams at the state meet on Oct. 20.

The meet was set up by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Horsemanship Association (WIHA).

Equestrian coach Gail Peteler started the Badger club five years ago, she said, and the WIHA has only been around for the past six years.

The amount of competitive equestrian teams is growing in Wisconsin, Peteler said. Over the past five years, she has watched the state meets steadily grow in size.

Teams are now split into 18 different districts (like conferences) in Wisconsin that are determined by location and team size. Each district has a meet, and the top two teams from each district qualify for the state meet.

Badger finished first in District 1.

At the state meet, teams compete within divisions that are determined by the size of each team. There are four divisions: A, B, C and D.

Badger competed in Division C, which is for teams with 4-7 riders.

Four Badger High School girls are on the equestrian team: seniors Melissa Schneider, Jessica Schmeig and Ashley Sanew and freshman Allison Gritzuk.

Next year, Peteler will only have one girl left on the team. Gritzuk will still be able to compete, but she will drop down into Division D if she makes it to the state competition.

“She would have to ride alone unless another girl, or a guy, came along,” Peteler said.

In the WIHA, teams are co-ed – the horse equalizes the playing field, Peteler said.

The horse also adds a complicated element to competition. Determining the strengths and weaknesses of each rider and each horse takes time.

“You maximize your points by placing the child and the horse in the event that they’re best in,” Peteler said. “And riding is just like anything else, some people are good jumpers, some people are good runners, some horses are good jumpers; they have the same types of athletic abilities that people do. So you have to analyze that horse and analyze that rider and you have to figure out what event you can maximize your score in.”

There are 18 different competitions at the state meet, ranging from showing to jumping and racing.

“It takes a lifetime to get good at,” Peteler said. “It’s like, well I can’t think of any sport that doesn’t take a lifetime to get good at. It’s like any other sport.”

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