Feature: Montrose’s Equestrians Ride to Success

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Feature: Montrose’s Equestrians Ride to Success

Alex Rider '18, Staff Writer

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Montrose has four dedicated equestrians who remain devoted to their horses and their sport while managing school work. These horsewomen reveal how close the connection between human and horse becomes. It’s more than a sport, it’s a relationship. And bonding with horses often spills over into family bonding as well. Each rider also notes how they’ve grown in character through the challenges and joys of horseback riding.

Bonding with Horses

Since she was eight years old, Ceci Sanchez ‘18 has been riding horses with her brothers at her family’s horse farm in Mexico. Her trainer teaches jumping and other equestrian skills.Ceci said: “I love horseback riding because I get to interact with an animal and be friends with him. There is this intuitive connection between you and the horse: He knows when you are feeling scared, you know when he’s not feeling well, and, when you’re both feeling really happy; you both can just sense it. It’s not something that you can find in any other sport. It is something that truly fills your heart.”

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Alyssa Martin ‘16 agreed. She said: “I love horseback riding because I get to create a special bond with my horse. From the start, my horse Belle and I connected very well and were able to place well in local competitions. I also became more balanced and athletic, and I really learned to manage my time well in order to have time to ride during the busy weekdays.” Since her freshman year, Alyssa has been riding at Harlequin Stables in Westwood.

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Carlie Cichocki ‘18 says, “Horseback riding is basically my life at this point. My love for horses is very difficult to explain… I love the rhythm of the gates, and just everything about riding horses.” Carlie rides at home each afternoon during the spring, summer and fall, and at a boarding barn during the winter so that her horse can stay warm and happy. Her shetland pony and her mother’s horse always stay at home because they don’t need to be worked as much as other horses. “I was put on a horse before I could walk. When I was seven, I got my little shetland pony, Mercy, and I officially began taking horseback riding lessons when I was eight.”

Catherine Souza ‘18 started horseback riding at High Rock Stables when she was five years old. She now rides at Walnut Hill Farm in Plainville where she works with her coach, Bob Graham. She said, “The relationship that I have developed with my horses is what fuels my drive, and it is also my favorite aspect of the sport. This type of relationship, built on mutual trust, is unlike any other relationship.The most successful horse and rider combinations have the best relationships, and I hope to develop a relationship with every horse I get on. My relationship with every horse is different and unique, which is another aspect of riding I deeply enjoy. The relationships I have with my current horses are totally opposite, but they are very special to me.”

Carlie Cichocki added: “My mom and I both ride, and so we are able to do a lot together in that respect. We spend a lot of bonding time together, and my mom does a lot for me, especially regarding the horses. I’m very grateful for every moment I get to spend with her when I’m riding.” Alyssa Martin ‘16 also rides horses with her mom and sisters, so she too is able to spend some quality bonding and family time with the ones she loves, while doing a sport she loves.

Lessons Learned from Horseback Riding

Horse-riding has helped the riders with their emotional and character growth as well. Ceci Sanchez ‘18 said, “When I first started horseback riding, I found it to be very difficult. I was really emotional; if anything ever went wrong, I had trouble handling it. I would always end up crying! I couldn’t accept my mistakes, and for a while I thought that I couldn’t do horseback riding because it was affecting me in detrimental ways. Over time, however, horseback riding changed me, and I became stronger and more confident of myself.”

Catherine Souza ‘18 added: “Riding has taught me to trust, and I find that trust is the essential part of my sport. I have to trust the 1200 lb animal that I mount each day to not act up, which would injure me. I trust my horses — that they will get me to the other side of every jump I point them at. Horseback riding has also helped me to see and love the little things in life. Especially when working with my young ponies, I have learned to notice the little things and appreciate them as well.”

Alyssa Martin ‘16 noted: “I have gained the virtue of patience. Horseback riding is a learning process that takes time, especially for my horse Belle, who I switched from Western riding to the discipline of Hunter/Jumper and dressage.”

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Carlie Cichocki ‘18 said: “Horseback riding gives me motivation to get my schoolwork done. I know that I have to ride everyday. And this knowledge gives me a drive to work faster so I can accomplish a thing that I love, as well as a thing that I must take care of. I tell myself that if I buckle down now and get homework out of the way, I can do other things later. It also helps me stay away from technology and other distractions when I’m doing my homework, since my time is already limited.”

Ceci Sanchez ‘18 added: “There was a time when I wasn’t doing well in school; and, at the same time, I wasn’t doing well at horseback riding. I noticed that, and knew that I needed to change. I started putting more effort into both school and riding, being more responsible, going more days to horseback riding; and I also started doing well in school. Skills that I learn and apply to horseback riding often carry over into another part of my life, such as school. Horseback riding forces you to be disciplined and responsible, and not just with the sport itself.”

Catherine Souza ‘18 agreed. She said: “This sport has shaped every aspect of my life. It has taught me the importance of time management because I am at ‘The Barn’ every day for several hours and my time for homework and sleep is limited. I have to budget my time wisely and utilize every free second at school and at home. This sport has also taught me the importance of hard work. Nothing comes easily in the sport of horseback riding and you have to put in a lot of time. I go to the barn everyday and spend several hours there. And every day there is always something new to improve upon.”

Montrose celebrates these equestrians, both for their achievements in their sport and for their growth in character and time-management skills. If you want some tips on balancing major extra-curricular commitments with academics, talk to Ceci, Alyssa, Carlie and Catherine!

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