Sisters explain their lifelong passion for equestrian

Sisters sophomore Grace Boyle and senior Riley Boyle ride horses for more than just fun


By Karissa Schmidt

Senior Riley Boyle brushes her horse. "We have to loosen up the horse so they aren't as tense. Then they will work with you and not against you. It makes [the horse] a lot easier to ride," Riley said.

For a typical suburban teenager, one would consider the phrase ‘raised in a barn’ an insult, but to sophomore Grace Boyle and senior Riley Boyle, it’s a compliment.

“My kids were raised in a barn. They are definitely different than other kids,” the girl’s mom, Heather Boyle-Townsend, said.

The Boyle sisters have been equestrian horseback riders for as long as they can remember. They travel to shows about once a month, which requires most of their spare time to be spent with their horses.

The training requires a lot of late nights and early mornings. The girls often have to complete their homework while traveling 45 minutes to and from the barn. This commitment is needed because they are competing at the highest level possible.

Equestrian horseback riding is a series of multiple events, up to 130 different classes in one show. The events include horsemanship, showmanship and saddle equitation.

According to Riley, it is important to be well trained, because one mistake could cost the rider points.

“[Equestrian is] competitive horseback riding. There’s groundwork and also riding,” Riley said. “We don’t do tricks.”

The girls recently competed in the East Novice Championship in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Oct. 1-5. Both girls placed in the top 20. Grace was ranked 121 in her class, while Riley ranked 78 in her class.

Unlike other sports, equestrian requires a strong emotional connection to their horse.

“You need to have a good relationship with the horse. You have to think about what you want them to do, and if you are good enough, they will do it,” Grace said.

Two trainers, who live on site at the Shafer Training Stables in Cleveland, Mo., work with the girls and their horses to improve their equestrian skills. The girls together own a total of 18 Quarter horses. However, for shows they each have one particular horse that they perform with.

“My horse’s name is Gator, and Riley’s horse is Ella. They have show names too [which are used in shows] but we use shorter names when we are at the barn,” Grace said. “Gator’s show name is So Good I Ache, and Ella’s show name is Things Hoped For.”

After many years of training and performing, the girls have learned about themselves as a rider, as well as a person.

“You learn about the ups and downs, because some weeks you’re on top of the world placing first, second, and third and have these huge shows, and then you lose in a little show in a town you never heard of,” Riley said.

Riley and Grace both have a strong passion for equestrian. They plan to continue riding for the rest of their lives.

“I love everything about it. It’s so cool to get to do what I do,” Riley said.

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