Heart in the hunt

At three years old Alyse Solomon of Clinton Township found her passion.  Following in her older sisters footsteps, she started riding horses.

Unlike her sister who deterred from the sport, Solomon continued to keep getting back on the horse as her passion for riding grew stronger.  As an intermediate Hunt Seat rider for the Central Michigan University Equestrian club team, Solomon spends on average 7 hours per week dedicated to improving her skills.

Hunt Seat is a style of forward seat riding.  “You use your core muscles as well as leg muscles no other sport targets,” said Solomon.

Participating in both over fences and on the flat, Solomon is one of the teams most-experienced riders.  Although in the arena each individual competes independently, outside of the arena it is a team effort to help one another prepare.

In each of the three divisions, open, intermediate and novice, riders compete against college students from schools across the United States and Canada.

One of the major challenges in competing is that riders have to ride horses that they are unfamiliar with.  Before the shows each rider chooses a stick from a bucket that will determine the horse they will ride for that event.  In order to do well in the competition, Solomon must know how to adjust her skills to the horses behavior, movement, jumping form and temperament.  “Random saddle, random everything and you just ride them,” said Solomon.

Judged on presentation, manners and ride-ability, flatwork consists of transitioning the horse through a walk, trot and canter.   During over fences, riders will jump obstacles including verticals, spreads and double combinations, usually with many turns and changes of direction.

In preparation for shows, Solomon rides one to three times per week.  On Wednesdays, a one-hour lesson is spent with her coach, Melanie Blues in Freeland.  Solomon will ride with two other gentlemen in the Mt. Pleasant area as well.

“All of my life I tried to be a person who would feel “accepted”.  I would manipulate myself into someone I wasn’t and the only thing to make me feel, well, like myself was horseback riding,” said Solomon.  “Horses get you, better than people do, and the sport itself brings you around others just as passionate about these animals as I am. ”

“If it wasn’t for horseback riding, I wouldn’t nearly be half of the person I am today.”

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Alyse Solomon, a junior and intermediate rider for the equestrian hunt team at Central Michigan University, buttons up her show jacket as she gets dressed for her first show of the season at Woodbine Farms in Chelsea, Mich. on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015.
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Alyse Solomon grooms Shadow, an American Paint Horse before their lesson with Solomon’s coach Melanie Blues at her farm in Freeland. Solomon prefers to ride Shadow when jumping, “He’s one of those horses that gives his heart for it, if you’re into it he’ll be into it,” she said.
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Alyse Solomon speaks to the first place winner after competing against each other in the flat-class competition at Woodbine Farms. Solomon placed third in the flat-class and second over fences during the teams first IHSA show of the season among college students across the United States and Canada.
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Members of the Central Michigan University team including Alyse Solomon, second from the left, and the teams coach, Melanie Blues, second from the right, form a tight circle as each team mate waits their turn to draw a number out of a bucket that would determine which horse they will ride for the show at Woodbine Farms.
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Alyse Solomon rides Clem as she competes during the flat-class competition at Woodbine Farms.
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Alyse Solomon pulls up her socks while getting dressed for her lesson on a Wednesday morning in her apartment at WestPoint Village Apartments in Mt. Pleasant. Solomon has a lesson with her coach once a week in Freeland.
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While riding Shadow, Alyse Solomon practices their jumping skills through a course at her coach Melanie Blues’s farm in Freeland. Every Wednesday at 1:30 Solomon has a lesson for an hour practicing with different styles of horses.
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Ribbons on display in Alyse Solomon’s room hang from a line on her wall. During Solomon’s experience with shows, she placed as a champion in her division, a reserve champion in her division, first place 8 times, 8 seconds, 9 thirds, 6 fourths, 3 fifth, 2 sixth, and an eighth from zones with total of 39 ribbons.
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Alyse Solomon looks on as she watches multiple horses warm up before the jump-class competition at Woodbine Farms.
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Alyse Solomon walks with Shadow out to the jump course before the start of their lesson with Solomon’s coach Melanie Blues at her farm in Freeland.
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