Kansas State equestrian rider Sam Estell has embraced her Midwest surroundings since she moved to Manhattan from Arlington, Wash.
“I’m used to a lot more rain,” Estell said after events were completed for the first day of the 2012 Big 12 Equestrian Championship Friday at TimberCreek Stables in Manhattan. “The sun’s out a lot more here and it gets a lot colder.
“It’s definitely different, but I’ve come to enjoy the sun a lot more, which I didn’t really realize I was missing out on before I came here.”
The Wildcats lost to Oklahoma State — the No. 1 seed — on Friday 9-7. In Hunt Seat action, the Cowgirls defeated K-State 5-3 with the Cowgirls taking the point in Equitation on the Flat 3-1, while the two squads tied in Equitation Over Fences 2-2.
Saturday K-State defeated Baylor in the consolation round 10-6 to finish third in the four-team Big 12 Conference.
Etsell, who was named the championship’s Most Outstanding Performer in Reining, defeated Baylor’s Olivia Rogers 141-138 to open the scoring on Saturday for K-State in the discipline. A team captain, the junior now has nine victories on the year.
Estell is one of K-State’s top riders and was an All-Big 12 selection this year. Her background in equestrian goes back to her childhood where she had been involved with horses ever since through 4-H, the American Quarter Horse Association and beyond.
Estell rides in the reigning events, where horse and rider perform in a predetermined pattern that included spins, gated-lopes, lead-changes, figure eights and sprints that end in sliding stops.
The kicker is that riders don’t use their own horses.
Each contest — such as this weekend’s Big 12 Championship — provides a horse for the rider. The horse and the rider are given time to warm-up and become acquainted with each other before an event begins.
K-State head coach Casie Lisabeth said Estell has become a leader for the team.
“Sam’s definitely had an awesome ride this year,” said Lisabeth, who is in her sixth year as the program’s head coach. “A big focus for her has been being a leader on the team, being one of only two upperclassmen reigners, and that’s been very important with having a very young team.
“As a rider, she keeps getting better every year. She’s learning about fixing those little mistakes that make the difference between a win and a loss, but she’s understanding it’s all about that fine-tuning.”
A big key, according to Estell, is having the ability to trust and to still remain loose.
“(It’s about) coming out and getting on a horse you’ve never seen before and just being comfortable enough to let that horse run down the pen and to keep yourself loose and trust yourself to say, ‘whoah’ and make sure that horse will stop,” she said. “There’s not a 100 percent guarantee it will, but so far, they all have.”
But before she even mounts the horse, Estell is a watcher.
“I definitely watch the person who is warming the horse up,” she said. “I see what they are doing with the horse, see what they are doing that is right, kind of feel out the temperament of the horse — whether it is hot or whether it is dull. I see what the animal likes and go from there.”
While Estell said she likes a horse to be toward the middle of “hot” or “dull”, Lisabeth knew which one Estell would choose if she had to pick between the two.
“She’d go hot,” Lisabeth chimed in before Estell could answer.
Estell agreed, though.
“Yeah… I would,” Estell admitted. “I’d like to think I’d like to kick it down the pen, but it’s a good challenge when you get that (horse) that wants to run off.”