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First students earn equestrian letters

Eliese Klennert, owner of the Stables Equestrian Center, poses with Makena Layton, Annalee Atkinson and Anna Austin- the first students to letter in equestrian.

Rochester Public Schools last week awarded its first athletic letters in equestrian, its newest sport, to three students.

Equestrian lovers in Rochester have been pushing for approval of making it a letter sport for years before receiving it for this school year.

Eliese Klennert, owner of the Stables Equestrian Center in Rochester, and Susan Austin wrote a proposal in 2015 that compared equestrian with other sports in public schools. The duo looked at many different sports and club requirements to forge a practical proposal.

"You can't really create a team sport like in football or baseball with equestrian," Klennert said. "We had to have different requirements."

The proposal had to have a set roster, the name of the certified training instructors and the name of the facility. The Stables Equestrian Center is the only riding center that is participating at this time.


There were three categories that students had to follow to earn a letter: community service, lessons with a coach or certified riding instructor, and competition.

Each student had to do a set amount of hours in each and also had the option to partake in additional hours including extra lessons or practices. However, participation in these categories does not grant you a letter. Students also had to complete an assessment and pass 10 to 15 skills.

"The skills were more specific than the walk, trot, or canter," Klennert said. "I wanted the letter to mean something and not just be handed out."

The equestrian practices and lessons were a similar time commitment to other varsity sport practices. Although equestrian season is August 1 through June 1, the same amount of hours — at least 150 — were spread out over 10 months.

The sport falls under the "equestrian club" and had 19 students participating in the 2015-2016 season. The club is inclusive to both Western and English riders.

Last week, three students — ninth-graders Annalee Atkinson of Mayo High School and Anna Austin of Century High School, and one eighth-grader Makena Layton of Mayo High School — received their first athletic letters for equestrian.

"I'm really proud of the girls," Klennert said. "It's so important that they can letter in their sport and get that recognition they deserve."

"It feels really special to letter as an equestrian," said Anna Austin. "It's great that our sport is being recognized and we get to show all the hard work that goes into riding horses as a sport. It's a great feeling and I am so glad we have this opportunity."


Klennert emphasized that equestrian is more than just a physical sport but also a mental sport.

"It takes a confident mindset to get on the back of a 1,200-pound animal," she said.

Klennert and the staff at the Stables Equestrian Center anticipate more people going forward. It was a growing year and a year to try out the plan. Klennert's goals include inviting more people without making the requirements easier and finding a solution for students who need financial aid.

"Equestrian is not a cheap sport," Klennert said. "I'm trying to make changes so that the people who can't necessarily afford it will be able to participate."

The Stables Equestrian Center has been in existence for 20 years. The newer location near Century High School is education-based and has been there for 11 years.

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