by Mike Parks
WAXHAW – Ashley Smith is used to jumping barriers. Now she’s helping tear down others for her classmates.
The Marvin Ridge High School freshman was recently awarded her varsity letter in equestrian sports from the United States Equestrian Federation. The school doesn’t offer a chance to letter in equestrian sports, nor does it offer any programs for equestrian-minded students. Ashley, and her mother, Tracy, want to change that.
“I think it’s kind of unfair these other sports get recognized,” Ashley said of all the other sports offered at Marvin Ridge. “We put just as many hours in, we spend just as many hours in competition.”
Ashley just finished up a competition last weekend in Huntersville. She was Children’s Hunter champion and champion in the 15 to 17 age group. She competes on an Interscholastic Equestrian Association team, where she was one of the top 12 riders in her division in a five-state region. In that event, Ashley had to pull a random horse’s name out of a hat and then get judged on her position on the horse, her ability to control the horse and her knowledge of riding.
She’s also part of the Piedmont Hunter/Jumper Association, where she competes on her horse, Hocus Pocus.
“The bond is the main thing,” Ashley said of her horse. “I can grow with the horse and we learn to work as a team.”
Next, Ashley is looking to show off her skills at a show at Carolina Country Acres on April 14. The free event is open to the public.
Part of the requirements for a student to be recognized by the U.S. Equestrian Federation is to have 100 hours on horseback per year.
Ashley blew through that in eight months.
Any student in good academic standing can follow Ashley’s lead. And her mother hopes to make things easier for Marvin Ridge kids.
“I’m in the process of working with some other folks in the area to use this program kind of as a spring board to maybe help Marvin Ridge recognize equestrian athletes,” Tracy Smith said. A number of Ashley’s school friends are riders, and she’s used to competing with them across the county on weekends.
“If the school would recognize equestrian events as sports, they can help on college applications, and there are collegiate equestrian scholarships,” Tracy Smith added. “It’s no different than a basketball player or baseball player. It’s the same exact thing.”
With colleges looking for students with extra-curricular activities, Ashley knows she can list her U.S. Equestrian Federation letter. But she’d love to throw a varsity letter from Marvin Ridge in there, too.
She’s still got some time left in high school, but Ashley’s already looking at colleges with equestrian programs.
“I would like to get into medicine, possibly be a vet,” she said. “I would like to be a horse vet… but I would like to have my own barn, too.”