Local equestrian team headed to nationals

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Six riders make up the the Penrose Farm High School Equestrian Team, and after hours and hours of jogs and jumps they've jockeyed all the way to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) national championship.

"Its very cool," rider Riley McMillan said during practice. "The whole team pitched in and everybody got those points for the team and we're getting to go all the way."

Christen Khym is the coach of the equestrian team. She said winning a national title would be "icing on the cake." Actually talking about winning, that's not talked about.

"We don't talk everyday 'how we're gonna win," Khym said. "No. I tell them 'we are well prepared for this. Do your best.'"

Like any national championship contending team, the riders at Penrose have made the sacrifice. Mastering this sport means time away from friends. It means time away from other fun activities, and on too many occasions, it means time in the hospital.

"I've been to the emergency room one time cause I thought I broke my hip. That's part of the deal," McMillan said.

Teammate Sophie Winter agrees.

"There's some saying where it's like it takes a 100 falls to be considered a true rider. It takes a lot of wear and tear to get use to it."

While bones might break, the bond that's developed between these riders and their horses never will.

"It's (the relationship between rider and horse) built on time. If I didn't know this horse he wouldn't trust me and I wouldn't trust him," McMillan said.

But at nationals, the challenge is how quickly that bond develops. These girls won't take their own horse. They'll draw for one, and the disposition that goes with him.

"If you don't want to deal with moods, ride a motorcycle," Khym quips. "These are animals with feelings and some days they don't have good days."

"You just have to trust that your horse will take care of you and you will give the horse the tools it needs to hopefully get a ribbon," Winter adds.

The team is made up of students from various Knoxville high Schools. Penrose leaves for Syracuse, New York and the national finals next Thursday.

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