The clip-clop of horseshoes fills the silence in room 523 as the Equestrian Club watches without a word. English teacher Spring Gehring-Lowery discusses how the motionless rider is controlling their horse during a video of a dressage competition. Dressage is a type of horseback riding where the rider uses their abdominal and leg muscles to command the horse without showing movement. But not all members of the Equestrian Club ride dressage, in fact some members don’t even own horses.
“I don’t have a horse, but I still love them,” sophomore and Equestrian Club Co-Founder Thais Reis-Henrie said. “The Equestrian Club is here so that the few people who do have an interest in horses can gather and discuss.”
The club meets almost every Thursday in room 523 and for the past three meetings have been watching the film “Secretariat” as well as comparing their riding styles and horses. Another main focus of the club is to discuss potential careers involving hroses and different training riding styles. While many members ride the more common Western or English styles, which differ mainly on use of riding equimptment, there are a few who practice dressage or even show horses.
The idea for an equestrian club came to Reis-Henrie and sophomore Anne Recker due to their passion for riding. Though Reis-Henrie doesn’t own a horse she actively rides at Katella Farms, a stable near Lee’s Summit, and created the club for horse owners and enthusiasts.
When Gehring-Lowery was approached by Reis-Henrie and Recker in the fall she didn’t hesitate when they asked her to be their sponsor. Gehring-Lowery teaches horseback riding outside of school and shows her horses as well as competes in dressage competitions. Similar to dog shows, horse shows are judged on multiple areas including performing trotting routines as well as leaping over obstacles. Dressage, on the other hand, is a type of riding that uses the bond between the horse and trainer as a method of teaching.
“I was approached by a student of mine who I also had seen show [their horses] and had trained in dressage,” Gehring-Lowery said. “I thought it was a great idea because I think as many clubs as possible are great for the school. I think a passion is something a club can foster and help grow and it’s very important to have those passions.”
But the club came to a screeching halt before it even began. Due to the dangers of horseback riding, the Equestrian Club almost wasn’t approved by the board.
“We got [the forms] filled out and approved by Dr. Krawitz but we still had to go through the superintendent,” Reis-Henrie said. “Luckily the laws in Missouri and Kansas state that if someone falls off their horse while riding it is their fault and they can’t sue. The only liability waivers we need will be from the different stables.”
With the legal issues straightened out, Recker and Reis-Henrie needed to focus on what they wanted to accomplish with Equestrian Club. Their main goal is to be able to ride their horses during the Lancer Day Parade next year. Yet this brings the issue of safety to the forefront again. With screaming Lancer fans and children the Lancer Day Parade could prove dangerous for the riders as well as those watching.
Recker has been riding since she was six, but recently got involved in dressage as a way to branch out from only riding Western and has taken lessons from Gehring-Lowery. Because dressage requires a strong bond between the horse and trainer Recker trusts that her horse could handle the stress of Lancer Day Parade.
“Dressage, which is really just the French word for training, is a form of riding based on the relationship between the horse and trainer,” Gehring-Lowery said. “It is one of the most technical and difficult sports and requires muscle strength as well as a bond between the trainer and their horse.”
Gehring-Lowery’s background in horse shows and training is what allows the equestrians to have this chance. Before the event will be put up for discussion with the SMSD Board of Education Gehring-Lowery has many different tests for the horses and trainers to go through before they can ride through the streets of Prairie Village.
“I have to see the student ride and make sure their horse isn’t going to react badly to the crowds,” Gehring-Lowery said. “I have seen some of the students ride and show before and I trust them, but horses are dangerous animals and we have to take a lot of precautions with an event like this.”
Along with dedicated riders are the members who don’t ride at all. Sophomore member Clara Bernauer only rides when camping, but still sees the Equestrian Club as a valuable club. Though she joined mainly for the social aspect Bernauer has developed a deeper love for horses since joining.
“It’s social and fun,” Bernauer said. “It’s really interesting to learn more about horses and other people’s passion. Plus it’s great to see pictures of everyone’s horses, everybody loves that. I mean it’s horses and movies, who wouldn’t love that?”