by Hilary Lesniak
Over the last nine years, I have had the great pleasure and opportunity to become involved in the highly respected and close-knit community of which the Cambridge Saddle Club portrays. The Cambridge Saddle Club is the perfect depiction of a family friendly oriented riding club. The events are structured for every age and every level of each individual rider which promotes room for growth, whether personal or profession. This is where my story starts.
I attended my first Gymkhana at age 12 with my grandmother, who was a member and a competitive rider. With all the nervous energy trotting through my mind, I instantly felt at ease with the supportive and safe environment around the arena. To this day I can still remember the smell of the grass, the crispness of the air, the dirt and dust penetrating through the fence from the participants. It was at that moment I was envious of their skills and overall riding abilities. I quickly began to idealize them and knew this is the person I wanted to become.
As you can imagine, experiencing anything new and for the first time can be challenging and anxiety provoking. I took a deep breathe when I heard my name and horses name called, gave a quick squeeze and made my way through the gate. Before I knew it, I was around my first barrel and headed towards the second. On my way to the final barrel, I could not help but think to myself I can actually do this. I turned the third barrel and headed straight down to finish my pattern. I had a smile from ear to ear and felt a surge of accomplishment, relief, and excitement. I heard the time over the loud speaker, 91 seconds, and thought that was amazing!
After my first competition, I was eager to get back in the saddle and compete some more. I began practicing daily and improving on my skills and was always anticipating my next show. It was through self-dictated practice and other resources, like the continuous support from the members of the saddle club, newly found friendships, and constant encouragement from the saddle club environment that helped build the foundational skills I embody today.
For the last seven years, I have had that absolute privilege of being the Cambridge Saddle Club Champion of the year. As the years roll on, it is amazing to me to see the overall progress of younger and older riders improving their skills to become the next Cambridge Saddle Club champion.
Riding and being a member of the Cambridge Saddle Club has enhanced my love for competition but also my emotional and social growth as a young adult. The overwhelming support and structure it provides allows room to make mistakes and grow from them with positive reinforcement. The Saddle club is not only interested in riding itself, but in promoting excellence in all areas of life as evident by their generous scholarship to college bound riders.
The everlasting friendships and special memories acquired at the saddle club will last a lifetime. The enthusiasm of the announcer, ring crew and gate keepers are among the top. The fun and entertainment is never-ending. Whether young, old, beginning riders, experienced riders, somewhere in-between riders, or just spectators, there is always a place for you in the family and community of the Cambridge Saddle Club.
by Hilary Lesniak