Prep equestrians tune up at Belt Buckle series


The Wood County Horse and Pony Club’s Belt Buckle Series at the Wood County Fairgrounds is proving to be a solid proving ground for riders of all ages.

For 4-H riders, high school riders, and independent riders — anyone who wants to participate in contesting or performance competition, on Saturday and Sunday they made sure to be at the WCHPC’s third two-day event of the four-part summer series.

It prepares riders well for the upcoming Wood County Fair and the high school equestrian competition in the fall.

“The horse and pony club does a lot in this county,” said Emily Carty, who will take over as the head coach of Bowling Green High School’s equestrian team this fall.

“They put on this buckle series, which is great practice for these kids going into the fair. We have one of the biggest horse departments in the state, and we do a lot of horses, and that is a huge credit to the horse and pony club and being able to get all the kids out here and getting them in a show pen and getting them practice.

“Then that just rolls onto the high school equestrian team. That being said, not all of the equestrian team kids are 4-H kids, so the open shows like the buckle series allow the kids who aren’t 4-H a chance to show also.”

Carty says equestrian eventing helps young boys and girls become better people, just like any other sport does.

“They learn and grow so much, not only as horsemen and women, but as people,” Carty said. “They learn how to interact with different people, learn how to be patient.

“I think horses teach kids numerous skills and talents. I think that providing a space where they can do that and for it to be safe and supportive is incredible. It helps these people grow into great leaders and just really grow in the community.”

Competing in the Ohio Interscholastic Horsemanship Association meets in the fall, there are three districts, and five Wood County high schools have teams in District 2, including BG, Perrysburg, Eastwood, Lake, and Otsego.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association sanctions state equestrian meets, but the Ohio High School Athletic Association does not, so the OIHA has taken over.

Carty, who rode for the BGHS team her final two years of high school, graduating in 2015, says numbers have fallen, but organizers are working hard to get them back up.

“The numbers were a lot bigger back then so we are really trying to push to grow the teams this year and going forward so we can keep all the districts,” Carty said. “We’re one of three districts for OIHA and we have five teams currently but the more teams we can have the better.”

The teams are typically club and not varsity-oriented and may or may not be affiliated directly with the schools, so if a high school student grades 9-12 rides but doesn’t belong to one of those schools, it is OK to ride with another school team.

Carty will become the BG equestrian team’s head coach this fall, but she is one of three coaches overseeing the BGHS program.

Carty, who is involved with the All Tacked Up 4-H Club and has also helped with the horse and pony club, says for her, it is important to stay involved.

“I’ve been riding the last 12, 13 years. I got started late in 4-H,” Carty said. “I credit a lot of what I’ve been able to do to the 4-H program here in Wood County and being able to come back as a coach for the equestrian team.

“I was an advisor up until last year. Being able to give back to that program is really important to me.”

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