Horse rider returns to competition

Sarah Novicoff

At 6 months old, Sydney Cheong ’14 was carried by her parents into a stable and lifted into the saddle on a horse. This marked the beginning of a 16-year passion.

“Near where we have our horses, there was a jumping barn and I thought it’d be really fun to take lessons,” Cheong  said. “It just seemed very natural. I never remember making a conscious decision to start competing.”

Initial curiosity has since grown into competitive success, as  Cheong defended her titles this summer by winning the Open Hunter Pleasure Championship, the 17-and-under Hunter Pleasure Championship and the Hunter Pleasure Qualifier at the Pacific Northwest Morgan Horse Show.

She won despite breaking her ankle in March playing softball and not having been cleared to ride again until the middle of August. Her first and only tournament of the season took place in Spanaway, Wash. from Aug. 24 through Aug. 26 just a few days after her medical clearance.

“I love being around [the horses] and riding them,” Cheong said. “Most of all, I love building relationships with them. The most satisfying feeling is going into a horse’s stall and feeling as if you’ve really bonded. Each horse has his or her own personality, so it’s always like making a new friend.”

Cheong began competing at age six and joined the Morgan circuit at 10. Her godmother breeds Morgan horses, a type of horse used commonly in shows, and introduced her to the breed, causing a transition from other breeds to mostly Morgans.

Cheong and her family own four horses, but Cheong only shows one of them, a Morgan named Treble’s Evening Star and nicknamed Brian. Brian is kept at a stable in Walla Walla, Wash. and is shown in competition across the country from May to October. During those months, Cheong visits Walla Walla almost once a week to practice with Brian and train for her upcoming competitions.

For the remainder of the year, Cheong competes as a member of the school equestrian team with her three other horses.

“[Cheong] always wants to make her second attempt at something better than the first,” equestrian Head Coach Christa Choe ’94 said. “She has a combination of athleticism and dedication that makes her great.”

The Wolverine equestrian team competes in the Los Angeles Interscholastic League, which hosts one competition show each month of the season. Each rider must own or lease their own horse for the competition.

“It’s not all about you because it’s the horse too,” Cheong said. “It’s a sport where how well you do is really dependent on the horse that you ride. I really like my horse.”