Senior finds success in horseback riding
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A horse and its rider have a relationship that is extremely unique. When a rider and their horse trust each other, a wonderful thing happens. The two beings become one; the motion of the horse becomes dictated by the actions of its master, creating an undeniable, special bond.
Senior Paige Junker started developing this bond when she was just five with her horse Clancy. She received riding lessons as a present for Christmas, and after her lesson began pursuing the hobby. Junker was encouraged by her grandmother, who also rode horses and wanted to keep the family tradition alive. However, the decision was ultimately Junker’s. “It was my decision, I loved it anyway. I always will,” Junker said.
Over the span of ten years, Junker would go on to ride Hopper, Nacho, Duet, Afro-Jack, and Lemont, and began to compete in riding. Competing is a complicated process. “We either do lessons on the flat, or do gymnastic work with the horses. To qualify for Maclay finals you have to win a certain amount of classes and then place in the top group at regionals to make finals,” Junker said.
Each Maclay class has two rounds and the top ten come back from the first round to test in the second round. To qualify for Junior Hunter finals, riders have to be the top fourteen in the country. These points are accumulated from the beginning January to the first of September. “You get a certain amount of points for each class you win based on the competition,” Junker said.
Junker was lucky enough to qualify for the Maclay competition, something that is very difficult to do, and one of her greatest accomplishments. However, Junker knows that if she wants to continue to ride, she has to keep her grades up, so she has to be diligent. “I travel often, mostly every other week,” Junker said.
She spends most of her time in California, Texas, and the East Coast. In general, Junker tries to do her work ahead of time, and if she has downtime at the shows, she does it there. Last winter, she spent half of the semester training in California. She worked with a tutor one on one for school, which made it easier to focus on riding.
Junker also sees a lot of riding in her future. She plans to continue on in college. “I hope to ride for a team with or in college, or ride for somewhere close to the college I attend,” Junker said.
Some colleges have riding teams, but Junker is also considering finding a team outside of school, if the barn is located within a reasonable distance. The colleges on Junker’s short list include University of San Diego and Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles; both colleges are close to where she trained last year and have good barns.
Junker will ride horses until she can’t anymore. She loves competing and challenging herself. “I am a competitive person,” Junker said.