Pratt High School student finds success in dressage riding world, accompanied by her mule

Ruby Howell
Pratt Tribune
Ruby Howell and her mule, Molly, will represent Pratt proudly at a regional dressage contest in April in Wichita, where Howell qualified for the event as a member of the Interscholastic Equestrian Association.

Editor's Note: Pratt Tribune freelance writer Ruby Howell shares her love of riding as she ventures into the world of dressage with her loyal mule, Molly, and finds a world of new friends and fun through the Interscholastic Equestrian Association.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to ride horses. Fortunately, I was blessed with parents in Pratt County who support that dream. Little did I know, when I was seven, that by the time I was graduating high school, I would have my own mule, many new friends, and be a part of a special team and program that is the Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA).  

For the past five years, I have been travelling almost every Saturday to a stable in Wichita for lessons on my mule Molly in the English discipline and jumping. A little over a year ago, I changed stables and started to learn dressage as well as continuing jumping. This past year, I had the opportunity to join Eagle View Equestrian’s IEA Dressage team (the stables I ride at).

IEA is a national horse showing program for kids grades 5-12.  It was meant to make the sport of riding more affordable. There are teams for jumping, dressage, and western riding. In this show circuit, you don’t even have to own a horse. The team you ride for provides horses for practices, and when you head to a show, you randomly draw a horse from the hosting team’s pool to ride in the show. This means that you get to ride many different kinds of horses throughout the season. The more horses you ride, the better equestrian you become.

Dressage is often referred to as the ballet of the hose world. A rider will ride a test, which is a predetermined specific set of movements. A judge will then judge how well the rider does the test, and results will be determined. It is all about smoothness and having good communication with the horse.

There are many different age and experience levels to compete in, to make sure that everyone competing does so fairly. For example, I am a senior in high school, but this is my first year doing dressage. But this doesn’t mean I compete with the little 5th graders either. This is one of the many things I like about IEA. It is made for anyone who wants to be a part of a team and ride.

Recently, I went to my last show of the season before our Regional competition in Denton, Texas. In our region, teams come from Texas, Kansas, and Arkansas, just to name a few. I drew two different horses and did my test, and a rail class called Dressage Seat Equitation (DSE) that judges how good the rider’s position is. I am qualified in DSE and will compete in Regionals at Eagle View in April.

My favorite part of IEA is being a part of a team and getting the opportunity to ride many other types of equine. I only have my mule, Molly, so it is beneficial to ride other horses.

Also, living in Pratt makes it hard for me to be at the barn more than once a week. Meaning, I don’t get the chances to ride other horses like the girls who live in Wichita do. The same thing applies to the teammate aspect, too. IEA has given me a chance to meet the other riders at the barn and make friends with people I probably wouldn’t have known otherwise. The only thing I regret is not doing it way sooner. Being a senior, this is my first and last year.

* Ruby Howell is a senior at Pratt High School and a long-time Pratt County 4-H Club member.