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.”