A 5-foot-4 inch girl stands next to a 1,000 pound horse and begins her lesson by taking her horse of the day out of his stall and brushing him down. With a yellow-bristled brush, she brushes the horse down to dust off any dirt, bugs or grass that they rolled in previously. Eastlack then picks out his feet so that there aren’t any rocks or dirt in them. Lastly, she puts the saddle pad, saddle, girth and bridle on the horse’s back and escorts him out to the ring.
At the age of 10, Hazel Eastlack’s future was set. The smell of barns and the feeling of thin, rough hair was not just going to be an annual event that she had to attend because of a family friend’s party. It was going to be a lifestyle, one that would make an impact on the rest of her life. Now a sophomore, Eastlack is hoping to attend a college with an equestrian program, preferably K-State.
“To me there is really nothing like riding a horse, I have always loved the feeling of the horse moving beneath me and the way horses smell,” Eastlack said.
After pulling on her black knee-high boots, Eastlack slips her hair into a low pony tail and secures her helmet to her head. She is now ready for her weekly lesson with 21 year-old trainer Ashlynn Kenny at Woodson Hill Equestrian Center.
Maverick, a dark brown horse with long black hair draping down his neck and tail with hooves the size of small frisbees. Maverick is a thoroughbred, a horse developed in England for racing and jumping. Eastlack has never ridden Maverick before, or any horse as big or as easily-disturbed as Maverick for that matter.
“I only let a few people ride Maverick because he’s hard to control sometimes, but I wanted to give Hazel a challenge today and she proved that she can ride any horse and make them do what they need to do,” Kenny said.
Currently, Eastlack is practicing English riding, a form of riding that includes Hunter Hack, where the horse walks, trots or canters before jumping over two poles that range from two to four feet. She is also working on her “two point” which is the position in which she sits with her shoulders even with the horse’s ears and her back parallel with the horse’s neck while jumping over the poles.
“It’s really your choice whether you want to do Western riding or English riding, I just chose English because it looked more fun and cool with the jumping,” Eastlack said.
First walking him around the ring to ensure the horse is loosened up, Eastlack then steps up onto a three-tier stepping stool and mounts the enormous horse. For the first 15 to 20 minutes of warm up, the trainer calls out several directions to get the horse’s legs warmed up such as walking, trotting, reverse trotting, cantering and reverse cantering. For the last 30 minutes of the private, Eastlack works on her jumping with the horse.
Eastlack wraps up her Monday night lesson by walking the horse around the ring a couple times, to prevent the horse from overheating.
After walking the horse around, Eastlack attaches the horse to ropes while she brushes him out again with the same yellow-bristled brush and gives him several treats such as carrots, apples or peppermint for his performance.
“I have always loved and will always love horseback riding, my life would definitely not be the same without it,” Eastlack said.