Freshman pursues passion for riding

More than 500 students participate in school based athletics playing football, golf, volleyball, basketball or one of more than a dozen sports offered on campus. Freshman Arden Haggard is one those as part of the tennis team; but her passion is equestrian in nature.

“I started riding when I was three but I started taking lessons when I was six. My mom rides and I grew up around horses,” Arden said. “I live with horses. Living with horses has definitely taught me that I need to be careful because any wrong move they can kill you, they can quite literally kill you.”

Arden Haggard
Haggard and her horses compete in IEA competitions.

Arden competes in IEA, a competition that provides unique opportunities.

“The thing with my competitions, it’s really weird, you don’t bring your own horse to the show,” Arden said. “You go there, you draw a name out of the hat, and that’s the horse you ride without ever seeing the horse before. It’s hard because you never know what kind of horse you’re going to get but I think that’s fun.”

But Arden’s passion doesn’t come without risk as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the rate of serious injury per number of riding hours is higher for horseback riders than it is for what most people assume is more dangerous: riding a motorcycle or racing a car.

“At times it’s nerve racking because it’s your daughter on a horse with a high chance of injury but it is also absolutely joyous,” mom Whitney Haggard said. “After she rides she is thrilled and as happy as can be regardless of how she felt before.”

Despite its potential dangers, the 9th grader enjoys the quick thinking required while riding.

“I like jumping the best definitely,” Arden said. “It’s really fun and you always have to be thinking. You have to think on your feet and if something goes wrong you can’t sit there and try to fix it, you have to fix it as your going. So it’s really taught me to think on my feet.”

Although equestrian events are an individual affair, Arden and her horse can be considered teammates.

Arden Haggard
Arden Haggard uses her horseback riding to gain her athletic credit for high school.

“I think it is the bond with the horses,” Whitney said. “It’s a mental and emotional bond with another animal. When you connect with the horse the horse is doing something for you to make you happy. The horse just gives back to you so much that it gives you an immense feel and a pleasure and satisfaction.”

With over 300,000,000 people in the U.S., Arden is one of an estimated seven million to ride horses.

“They’re really sweet majestic animals and if you treat them right, they’ll treat you right,” Arden  said. “I just think it’s really nice to interact.”


Updated: this story was revised to reflect the fact that Arden Haggard is also a member of the JV tennis team and that is how she earns her athletic credit.