Being the only person on an equestrian team can make it tough to get noticed.
Just ask Fenton’s Nadine Lessard.
“A lot of my friends know (I compete on the equestrian team), but it’s not really a very publicized sport,” Lessard said. “It doesn’t even have a page in the yearbook.”
If Lessard continues her success from earlier in the season at the state meet, however, she could end up getting some notoriety.
Lessard, who has already won a district and regional championship, will compete in the Class D state equestrian meet starting on Thursday. She’ll compete in 16 classes over those days on her two horses — Bowen, a 17-year old Arabian, and Smokes, an 11-year old Quarterhorse.
This is the second time Lessard’s name has made up everyone on the team. Last season during her junior year, she also qualified for the state meet as a one-person team. During her freshman and sophomore years the team was five and four people in size, respectively.
“It’s a lot to take in during your junior year,” Lessard said. “Now I kind of have the hang of it.”
Participants compete in many different classes. Each class has specific events within that class. First, there are the showmanship classes and then the English classes. Jumping classes follow and saddle seat classes are after that. Finally, there are western classes and gymkhana classes. There are 16 events within the classes overall. Lessard will split the events between the horses based on their abilities.
“Even though he’s 17, Bowen acts like a 2-year old,” Lessard said. “He has a lot of energy. I’m borrowing Smokes from a neighbor. I’ve trained a lot of hours with Smokes the last two-and-a-half years.”
Lessard, who has been riding horses since she was 3 and started showing horses when she was 7, will compete against teams that are like-size, either one or two competitors large. That helps her cause. Because while larger teams have more competitors to use in all the events, Lessard is by herself.
“It’s crazy, but at regionals I had to compete in all the events in two days and in districts in one day,” Lessard said.
Until last year, the Fenton squad has never made it beyond districts. Lessard has lofty goals for this season.
“Last year the competition at regionals was really tough and I barely made it out of regionals,” Lessard said. “This year I’ve come a long ways and both of the horses are doing really well. I’m confident but I don’t want to get cocky about it. I (won the regional championship) by quite a bit point spread, so I was pleased.”
Lessard said equestrian is a unique sport.
“I love the commitment in it,” Lessard said. “Not only do you as an athlete have to be fit, but you have to work with a 1,000-pound animal that will do anything for you. It’s so rewarding.”