When she’s not studying for exams, freshman Devon Szanto risks jumping over three-foot fences on a 1,000 pound animal.
The the most common styles are Western and English, both complicated and each have their own differences and similarities. Many times it’s just referred to as horseback riding.
Born and raised in Temecula, California, Szanto’s passion for riding horses began at a young age. While no one else in her family shared a passion for horses, her family was supportive. However, her parents were concerned for their daughter’s safety riding horses at such a young age. When Szanto was seven her parents took her to a horse camp for the summer where her love for riding grew. Deciding what style of riding was never a question for Szanto.
“I’ve always enjoyed English jumping. I enjoy the shows because I work with the horses in order to show off our best skills and it’s so rewarding when you place high and your hard work pays off,” Szanto said.
Over the years Szanto has been competing in shows with programs outside of her schools. Starting her first year at Sonoma State University she wanted to continue riding while developing her skills.
While most freshman students are dealing with first year struggles like adjusting to moving away from home, Szanto was focused on nothing but joining the Equestrian team on campus. Although she had been riding for many years, catch riding was new for Szanto. Her whole life Szanto was used to competing with her own horse she had been training with for months prior to the competition and now has to compete on a horse picked the day of performance without a practice ride or warm up.
“It is very different than what I am used too but I also enjoy it because it can show who some of the best riders are,” Szanto said. “It’s hard to get on a random horse and jump them when you know nothing about that horse.”
In this first year while learning new setups at the start of the fall semester, Szanto scored second place at her first show in her class of 13 people. While merely placing at show is an achievement of its own, Szanto surprised everyone at her first college competition by also ranking fifth in her class of 16 people.
“Devon is a great rider and has such a great attitude. We are thrilled that she is part of the team. Intercollegiate Horse Show Association is very different and the rules are sometimes challenging, but she handled everything exceptionally well,” said President of Sonoma State Equestrian team Rebecca Mitchell.