As a teenager in Michigan, Sara Starnes lived for her high schoolâ€™s equestrian team. She even became a coach after graduation.
When she took a teaching job in North Carolina, she planned to coach in her new home. Instead, she had a rude awakening.
â€œI moved down here and wanted to coach until I realized there was no such thing,â€ Starnes said.
Instead of giving up, the Hickory-resident decided to start up a league of her own. Now, she has four teams in the Hickory area and hopes to add a Lincoln County team to the roster.
By the end of the summer, Starnes expects to have anywhere from 60-150 riders competing. Practices will take place this summer and compete in the fall.
Shows will take place Sept. 15 and 29 and Oct. 13 at Tough Enough Rodeo in Lenoir. Starnes believes the atmosphere will be one of camaraderie.
â€œThis is not about snubbing other people or making a big olâ€™ scene because you got first place,â€ Starnes said.
Instead, itâ€™s about supporting your team and having a good time.
â€œItâ€™s so much fun,â€ she said. â€œItâ€™s entertaining. Kids make a lot of friends. Parents get involved in it.â€
In fact, Starnes, who graduated high school in â€™99 still keeps in touch with some of her former equestrian teammates. She has fond memories of practicing alongside friends, learning how to compete in new events and duct-taping her coach to a pole after winning first place.
And while thereâ€™s lots of silly fun, thereâ€™s also a lot of work.
â€œYouâ€™ve got to practice all summer with these horses,â€ she said.
Starnes is looking for both coaches and students for the Lincoln County team.
Those interested must have an available horse, whether theyâ€™re leasing it or own it. Each rider can compete with up to two horses. They must also have their own supplies and their own trailer.
Rising ninth-grade to 12th-grade students are welcome to join, but itâ€™s not a sport for beginners. That said, riders will be able to learn new disciplines while on the team.
â€œWeâ€™ve got everything for every type of rider,â€ Starnes said of the class list.
Starnes hopes to see both boys and girls join the team.
â€œMostly boys do the speed. Boys arenâ€™t so showy,â€ she said.
The more girls on the team, however, the more boys are likely to follow.
â€œAnd a lot of boys join the team because there are so many girls,â€ she said.
At the competitions, students will compete in classes to win points for their team. The team with the most points after the three competitions will be declared the winner.
The class list is as follows: Western showmanship, English showmanship, Saddle-seat showmanship, Non-trotting pleasure, Saddle-seat equitation, Non-trotting bareback, Western pleasure, Western horsemanship, Dressage suitability, Hunter over fences, Equitation over fences, Trail, Barrels, Pole bending or speed pattern, Flag race and Relay.
For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Sarah Grano