O’NEALS — Minarets High School is home to one of the very few school-sponsored equestrian teams in the Central Valley.
Though competition with other schools is limited, the Minarets Equestrian Team dominates. In fact, they have such a prestigious competitive record that schools who do have equestrian teams do not want to compete with them. The team is coached by founding member and Minarets alumna, Chloe Ferguson.
With a lack of competition, the equestrian team has found other ways to apply their skills. Probably most notable is their involvement with home football games. Before every home football game starts, the equestrian team leads the national anthem ceremony. Members of the equestrian team ride out onto the field holding flags of purple and yellow, while senior Kaitlynn Linderholm has the honor of carrying the American flag onto the field on her very own mustang horse.
When defining the role of the equestrian team in regards to football, Kaitlynn stated it is their “contribution to the high school.” To prepare for their contribution, the team practices on the football field after the football team ends their practice. Horses are naturally skittish animals that can become frightened at any moment, so practicing at the place and time where they are performing is something that Kaitlynn says is very important, or “you’re not going to get a 1,500-pound animal to listen to you.” They have also implemented emergency procedures in case a horse becomes too unruly for the rider to handle, as “when you’re on a horse, you’re thinking about 20,000 different things.”
When a competition does occur, it usually is a drill competition where the team is judged by how well they perform their routines. Kaitlynn described it as being similar to a cheer competition. The team also participates in gymkhanas at the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds, which also happens to be their “home field,” that occur in late winter and early spring. Like any outdoor sport, Kaitlynn says that “weather is a really big factor.”
Other events the team participates in are parades, such as the Veterans Parade in Fresno. In addition to football games and parades, the team performs community service in partnership with the Fresno Police Department. Members Kaitlynn Linderholm and Kaileah Sandstrum are also part of the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds flag team. More recently, they were featured at the ABC 30 rally on Sept. 21 and were very thrilled for the opportunity. It was a big deal for them, being one of the only school-sponsored equestrian teams in the Central Valley.
For those who would like to get involved with the equestrian team, tryouts are near the end of the school year and during the summer at the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds.
Members and future members of the team must have access to their own horse and be prepared to handle medical expenses and other needs that the horse might have. To learn more about the team you can visit their Facebook page at Minarets High School Equestrian Team.