Q&A with Clare Leedke, horseback rider and sophomore


Luke Miller

ROUTINE RIDE: Clare Leedke, horseback rider and sophomore, controls her horse on a practice ride. According to Leedke, controlling a galloping horse while riding is much harder than a traditional trail ride.

Leah Tan

How’d you start horseback riding?

I always wanted to ride when I was younger, I’m not sure why I wanted to (ride) so bad, but I apparently just always wanted to ride horses. My parents put off getting me into lessons until I was in 5th grade, hoping I would grow out of my horse phase. We found a lesson barn online, and started there. 


How long have you done it for?

Around 4 years total, but only 2 with a trainer I am consistently improving and moving up with.


What goes into being a horseback rider (aka skills, equipment, etc.)

Skill wise, it takes a lot of leg muscle, core, and balance. Depending on if you’re riding a faster horse, or a lazier one, it can take more arm or leg (muscles). Equipment-wise, starting out a pair of cheap boots and a cheap helmet with long pants works well. Even just riding clothes add up quickly, good helmets that will protect you from a fall, nice boots, riding pants, belts, it honestly never really ends. When just taking lessons you most likely won’t need your own horse tack, the barn should supply it. With your own horse you’ll need boots for the horse, saddle pads, a saddle, bridle, girth, grooming supplies, and much more. 


What are your long-term goals with this?

If money, time, and experience weren’t an issue, I would love to work with horses for a living. You don’t make much, but I think I would enjoy it. Realistically though, I’m hoping just to keep riding through college and after as much as possible, and see where it takes me from there. 


How can people start, whether it be for fun or for competition?

A great start would be researching barns around you that offer lessons. Some barns are more fit for just beginners, and some can take you from starting out and to the show ring. One of the best things to do would be to ask around, many people have different opinions, and it really depends on how serious you want to take your riding.


What misconceptions, if any, would you like to clear up about horseback riding?

A lot of people think riding is an easy sport, or that it’s not a sport at all. For starters, it’s definitely not easy. Going on a trail ride would be easy, but when you actually have to ride, it’s a whole different story. Even on a well behaved horse, you use a lot of different muscles that aren’t used often. Even just the care of the horses can be exhausting. Everyone who rides pours blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of money into their riding, and a lot of people discredit us saying “the horse does all the work.” There are people who also say if you ride horses, you have to be rich. If I’m being honest, the top of the sport is fairly inaccessible without loads of money, but overall if you put in hard work, you don’t need to be rich to ride. There are plenty of opportunities to get free rides, especially if you’re willing to work. 


For more information about horseback riding, visit: https://tophorsebackriding.com