STANTON — It took months of practice to come together as a team, and a long stormy day of riding, but all the hard work paid off as five Central Montcalm middle schoolers captured the Division B Equestrian Team Championship on June 16 in Big Rapids, beating out Greenville, Morley Stanwood, Pine River and Reed City.
The team was comprised of Danielle Clise, 14, of Stanton; Karley Wilkie, 13, of Sheridan; Alicia Kohn, 13, of Sidney; Nikki Wilkie, 12, of Sheridan; and the sole male rider, Keegan Moran, 12, of Stanton.
Equestrian teams are offered at several local schools, encouraging students at both the junior high and high school level to compete in team horseback riding events, or “meets.” Part of the challenge of participating on a junior high or high school equestrian team is learning new skills and possibly riding in classes with little or no previous experience.
“It was mind over matter for things we didn’t know,” said Nikki Wilkie, who admitted she and several of her teammates had to try new things they wouldn’t have to try to earn points for the team.
Clise said that the two big lessons she learned this season was to be “willing to learn to work hard” and to always get back on the horse when you fall off — which she did before one of her classes when her horse, Dusty, spooked so bad he reared up and fell backwards with Clise still on his back.
Thankfully, a sprained wrist and a broken bridle were the only “injuries” in the accident. Clise was proud to say that she got back up on her horse, rode him in the next class as planned and even placed.
“I knew the team was doing their best, had a great team spirit and were having fun all day long” said Coach JoAnn Dudenhofer, of Sidney. “I value these qualities as much as I do the final score of the day.”
The junior high equestrian meet ended early because of severe weather, and computer failure kept the final team scores a mystery until the end of the day.
“We concentrated completely on the horses and riders, getting them into each class, and then ready for the next, so I didn’t realize where we were in the standings until they announced that Central Montcalm had won the B Division,” Dudenhofer said.
“I don’t think any of our parents thought we would win,” Karley Wilkie said with a chuckle. “But what you put into things is what you get out of it.”
The team’s assistant coach is Rachel Piper of Stanton.
Practices for the Central Montcalm High School Equestrian Team began July 11, but space is still available on the team for interested district students. Contact Dudenhofer at (989) 328-6353 for more information.