By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Many area high school students have earned scholarships to play football, basketball, baseball and the like at college, but equestrian sports?
It’s a new one on Jonathan Alder High School, where for the first time in the school’s history, a student has earned a place on a Div. I college equestrian team.
On Nov. 22, standout horseman Paisley Roberts signed a letter of intent to compete as a member of the equestrian team at the University of South Carolina. Her scholarship covers half of her school costs. She will find out in the spring if she will receive an academic scholarship, as well.
Roberts, 18, started riding and showing horses when she was 4 years old. She competes with other high schoolers through the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) and as an individual in the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA).
Roberts’ specialties are horsemanship and reining. In reining, competitors must work as one with their horse to complete maneuvers such as spinning, sliding and running circles. Reining is a Western event, as opposed to English events, which include jumping.
Roberts, 18, is very good at what she does. Out of 3,200 competitors, she ranks third in the quest for an NRHA world title for youths ages 14-18. Also this year, she was the Ohio Valley RHA youth champ and Madison County Junior Fair horse showman of showmen. Last year, she was Reserve Ohio State reining champion and Ohio Valley RHA rookie champion.
Roberts has known for years that she wanted to pursue her sport into college.
“I’ve known since sixth grade, watching the older girls on my teams move on,” she said.
Competition for spots on college teams is fierce. A relatively small number of schools field equestrian teams, many of them found in the southern United States. Team rosters usually hold only about 10 riders.
Roberts’ path to securing one of those spots required a lot of time and dedication. Her typical week involves two sessions with her NRHA trainer, a session with her IEA coach, a day of preparation for shows and two weekend days of competition. She competes nearly year-round.
“Paisley is a very dedicated young lady. No matter what she does, she goes 100 percent at it,” said Brandon Brant, Roberts’ NRHA trainer. Roberts’ IEA coach is Debbie Griffith.
“I really appreciate everyone making sure I did my best,” said Roberts in thanking her coaches, family and teachers.
At Jonathan Alder, Roberts, a senior, is a member of the National Honor Society and has maintained a grade point average of 3.5 or higher throughout her high school career. She is considering a major in nursing.