Juliana Conyer

Senior Mia Cassin poses with the ribbon she won from a horseback riding competition with her horse named Belle.

Cassin saddles up to ride her hoofed best friend

Senior Mia Cassin has what many would describe as an unconventional pet. Instead of a fish, Cassin spends her days taking care of her horse named Belle.

“My horse is literally my best friend. I can just know that on a bad day I can go and I can count on her to just be there,” Cassin said.

Belle lives in a barn about 40 minutes away from Cassin’s house. During the school year, Cassin tries to visit two or three days a week.

Although schoolwork and a social life prevent Cassin from seeing Belle every day, she has been committed to horseback riding for 11 years, ever since she was introduced to the sport.

“So, my mom’s best friend actually owned a farm, and she had a gray horse named Gracie that I was literally just obsessed with. And ever since then, literally ever since I could talk, I was asking my parents, ‘let me take lessons,’” Cassin said.

Gracie and Belle aren’t the only horses that Cassin rides. During the summer she works at Epona Farm, where Belle is boarded, and makes money by riding and caring for other horses.

Though Cassin enjoys riding in general, a small smile appears on her face as she describes taking care of Belle versus horses that belong to other owners.

“It’s a big responsibility. You’re responsible for their happiness almost. They need a sense of companionship,” Cassin said.

Caring for the horses isn’t the only challenge Cassin has when it comes to horseback riding. Cassin fiddles with her ring as she talks about the other physical and mental obstacles that she faces pursuing her passion.

“It all depends on circumstance. Horses have bad days just like we have bad days. It’s kind of hard not to blame everything that goes wrong on myself, and I struggle with that still even to this day,” Cassin said.

All of this hard work doesn’t go to waste. Cassin showcases her and Belle’s skills at horseback riding competitions. When it comes time for a competition, Cassin gets nervous, but she overcomes these emotions with her horse by her side.

“I still get anxiety to this day. Once I step foot in the ring, I’m very focused and can kind of work it out and I’m OK, it’s just you [Belle] and me; we’re going to do the best we can and it is what it is,” Cassin said.

Cassin specifically practices a type of horseback riding called dressage, in which the rider teaches their horse different commands and skills by moving their hands and legs.

During a competition, Cassin gets a rating out of ten for each skill she and Belle complete. These scores then add up to Cassin’s overall division score.

Cassin generally competes about three times a year but has gone to as many as five competitions in one season. And she has no intentions of stopping her training anywhere in the future.

“I just want to get on a horse. I just want to ride,” Cassin said.

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