Spartan equestrians saddle up for competition



With reins in hand, Kelly Anne Williams (11) jumps over hurdles at the Germantown Charity Show Grounds, where she placed first in the speed round.

With over 25 years of experience between them, Rebecca Wills (12), Kelly Anne Williams (11) and Jackie Ann Crislip (10) all ride horses competitively. Although they do not participate in a traditional sport, these Spartan equestrians share a passion for competition and an equal love for equestrianism.

In horse riding, competitors participate in various competitions. Wills competes in the hunter jumper discipline, while Williams competes in jumper competitions; both involve maneuvering over fences and obstacles.

Crislip, on the other hand, is a barrel racer, meaning that she races around barrels in a cloverleaf pattern attempting to complete the course in the smallest amount of time possible.

“You’re running for money, and you have to pay an entry fee, so it’s kinda like gambling,” Crislip said. “You may or may not win money. You just have to be fast enough to win.”

The equestrians compete in one of two categories, English or Western. Wills’s and Williams’s division, English, involves smaller saddles and different judging than Western, Crislip’s division.

“There’s not a giant difference. Everybody rides horses, just different disciplines. It’s like the difference between softball and baseball,” Crislip said.

Horse riding is a huge time commitment. Wills, Williams and Crislip ride almost every day of the week, only taking days off to rest their horses. Competitions last year round, and each of them compete nearly every month.

“I think you need to be realistic with yourself about how much time and effort you can dedicate to it,” Wills said. “It’s way different from other sports. You don’t have time for anything else, really.”

Horseback riding takes persistence and determination, but their love for the sport makes it worth the challenge.

“You’re in it for the long run,” Williams said. “You have to have patience, and you’re gonna go through a ton of different horses and different skills. You’re gonna have to adapt to all of those skills, and you’re gonna have to adapt to the environment around you.”