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Local High School Equestrians compete in Massachusetts

The top high school equestrians from all fifty states are preparing for national competition in Massachusetts.

For the first time, a team from our area will compete.
Ten local girls from different high schools make up the young team.

Channel Three's Kathryn Daniel takes us to northern Santa Rosa County to see two of them train.

"When you guys are ready, let's go ahead and change direction."
Welcome to Jodi Bondar's office the arena at Pinnacle Point Farm.

Jodi's the coach of the Emerald Coast Equestrian team.
"Very competitive, it's very structured, you have to be very disciplined, it requires lots of practice and lots of travel."))
Morgan Mickel's on the ten member team.  She's been riding since she could sit up.  Her family owns a Molino horse barn. 

The 15 year old feeds and grooms 26 horses twice a day and cleans their stalls.   

"I work and ride, most of the time, I work and ride and work and ride, it's my everyday life."
She competes on the English Hunt Seat team...In flat work...How horse and rider walk, trot and cantor...And in jumping over fences.

Jodi says her girls take only their show clothes to competition -- they can't even use their own saddles.

The host club supplies the horses....which are paired up randomly.
"Draw a name out of a hat and being asked to compete with no practice on that horse."

Team mate Kristina Meyer says it's one of the best parts of the sport.
"It's nerve-wracking, but it's also really cool, it's neat to get the opportunity to get to ride a bunch of different quality horses and it makes you a better rider."

Kristina drives from Panama City to compete with the group...She doesn't mind a mile of the two hour commute.

"When you ride well for the team and you get the points on the board, it's a really good feeling.  I prefer to ride for a team than ride individually."

Bondar says for teams to make it to nationals, they have to accumulate enough points in just five shows to make it to regionals...Her girls did that and swept regionals -- in just their second year riding together.
"It's the highest honor a high school rider can achieve, there is no higher than to go to nationals."