June 4, 2009 in Washington Voices

Riding into the future

Eggleston hopes to be professional equestrian
Val Putnam vrputnam@yahoo.com
 
J. BART RAYNIAK photo

Valley Christian’s outstanding student Sydney Eggleston’s life-long dream is to become an Olympic equestrian competitor. Her horse, Cheeks, was her 16th birthday present. “I didn’t want a car,” she said, “I wanted a horse.”
(Full-size photo)

Valley Christian senior Sydney Eggleston, 17, discovered her life’s dream at an early age. While channel surfing at 9, she happened upon the equestrian riding event during the Sydney Olympics.

”Nothing was ever right until I saw it on TV,” Sydney said. “I knew at that moment that is what I totally want to do.”

Eggleston began lessons eight months later at Eastwick Hunters and Jumpers in north Spokane.

It seemed a natural fit for the girl who since age 4 had been asking for riding lessons.

But not just any horse would do.

Eggleston’s mother, Kelly Eggleston, remembers driving and pointing at horses grazing in the field. Surprisingly, she got no reaction from her daughter. At 5 1/2, , Eggleston brought her mom a magazine picture of an English style riding horse and said, ‘No, I want to ride like this.’

“I don’t know where she got the picture,” Kelly Eggleston, 41, said. “No one we knew had horse magazines.”

After enrolling in lessons, Sydney Eggleston remembers staying at the barn for hours, sweeping for as long as she could.

“Just being there puts me in the happiest place I’ve ever been,” she said. “I just love it.”

Six months after learning to ride, she began jumping.

“I started out with small poles on the ground and slowly worked up from there,” she said. “Once you’re able to control your horse on your own, you are ready to move onto different levels of difficulty.”

Eggleston got Groovin’, her first horse, at age 12, the same year she took the championship in her first A-level competition in Langley, B.C. Since then, she has competed in five other A-level shows for top riders, in addition to numerous unrated shows.

On her 16th birthday, her parents surprised her with Cheeks, a 10-year-old male horse.

She found her present in the barn wrapped with a bow around his neck.

“I was totally shocked,” she said.

Today, Eggleston jumps over obstacles up to 3 feet 9 inches. By comparison, Olympic riders jump over a course of 10 to 16 jumps set up to 6 feet 6 inches high or wide.

“I’ve fallen many times,” Eggleston said laughing. “No broken bones, so that is good.”

She has not missed a weekly lesson for more than eight years. Any extra time she finds in her schedule, she is at the barn riding Cheeks or helping her trainer exercise his other horses.

After graduation, she plans to attend Centenary College in Hackettstown, N.J. She chose Centenary because of its four-year teaching degree specializing in riding instruction and training.

Equestrian is one of the few sports that age doesn’t dictate an athlete’s longevity.

“There is no cut off age,” she said. “You just physically have to be able to handle it. I can see me doing this my whole life.”

As well as maintaining an aggressive riding schedule, Eggleston is involved with school activities.

She plays volleyball in the fall. In the spring, she plays tennis, a program she helped start at Valley Christian during her sophomore year.

She also helps lead the worship team and is the senior class treasurer.

Outside of school, she and two friends volunteer raising funds for Mocha Club, a national organization benefiting people in Africa.

“She is a well-rounded student,” Valley Christian’s guidance counselor Nancy Arnhold said. “She is very active in school and still able to fulfill her life-long dream.”

Eggleston’s ultimate dream is participating in the 2016 Olympics as a rider. “If you shoot for the moon and you miss, you’ll end up in the stars, so why not?”

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