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Sharks Equestrian team competes at state level

The 2013 Hastings Sharks Equestrian team pictured at HHH Ranch.

On Aug. 16, the Hastings Sharks competed in the Special Olympics Minnesota State Equestrian Competition. The team brought eight of their own horses to the Northwest Saddle Club in North Branch for the competition. During the season, the Sharks practice at HHH (Hastings Huskies and Horses) Ranch. The team starts practice in May and practices Monday and Wednesday evenings throughout the summer. In July the practice becomes more rigorous, adding Tuesday evening sessions for athletes on the drill team. In order to compete, athletes must attend at least 10 practices before competitions.

Some 140 athletes competed at the state level this year, 13 of whom represented the Hastings Sharks. Athletes are placed into classes based on their age and riding level, from assisted at walk, to unassisted cantering. Assisted riders can have three volunteers in the arena with them during an event. The competition is an all day event, athletes can compete in as many as three events throughout the day depending on their riding level. All of the Sharks athletes competed in working trail, an obstacle course completed on horseback, and equitation class, in which multiple riders compete in the arena at the same time following directions given by the announcer. Six Sharks athletes competed in showmanship which is an event where the athlete leads the horse into the judge, has the horse set-up and then completes a pivot turn and leaves. Four Sharks athletes also competed on two drill teams. A drill team consists of at least 4 riders, who perform in sync with music. The final event, which the Sharks did not compete in, is barrel racing. Overall it was a good day, according to coach Laura Smith, with Sharks athletes receiving gold, silver and bronze medals, and ribbons for 4th to 8th placings.