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UW-River Falls Western Show Team lends helping hand, demonstrates sportsmanship at competition

March 14, 2013

Angie Esselman and the UW-River Falls Western Show Team went to a regional competition in Crookston, Minn., hoping to compete and learn more about showing horses and showmanship.

What they demonstrated and came away with though, was a life lesson in what advisor Janie Huot called “a generous act of humanity for all the right reasons.”

Teammate Jade Baerg was in the dressing room when teammate Katie Nelson came in and said she needed some chaps (leg coverings for riding horses), because there were some girls that needed them to show.

Baerg said she was confused, but grabbed her chaps and went out with Nelson.

As it turned out, a small group of girls from Bethany Lutheran College were standing there without the proper attire and dress to compete.

Huot said the group from River Falls went over to the Bethany girls and started offering them tips, and in Baerg and Nelson’s case, their own equipment, even though the Bethany girls were competing against UWRF in some areas.

“I didn’t even think about it hurting our chances,” Baerg said. “It was just helping, nothing special. I didn’t even think twice about them using it. I have been in the same position on more than one occasion, and I was glad to help them. It was awesome to see them smiling and having fun with it.”

Baerg went out into the arena and helped the girls get on their horses and get ready to show.

Esselman said she could tell that the girls/riders and even the coach were so amazed at the show and how it was run, as well as the level of riders and outfits that they wore.
Esselman said she knew her team was up to something as she observed fellow teammate Allison Aanerud who initiated the contact with the Bethany girls.

“She is the type of person that will talk to anyone and she is always friendly. She introduced me to a few of the girls on the team and we talked about school and horses and everything college girls would discuss. After getting to know them a little better, I could tell that they were going to need a little help in the competition,” Esselman said.
At first, Esselman gave them pointers on the horses they were riding and tips about the show ring. Then Esselman did one of the girl’s hair and it just escalated from there.

But at the end of the day, Esselman knew the event was more than horses and ribbons.

“As I was helping them I thought about the time in my life when I needed help like this. Today, I am seasoned to riding and the show pen, but I did not come from a family where horses were a second nature. I, too, started from the very bottom,” Aanerud said.

To people in the same situation as the Bethany girls, Aanerud’s advice is to try and do whatever activity you want to do.

“Those girls had a passion for horses and they wanted to learn how to ride so they put an intercollegiate riding team together at a non-agriculture school,” Aanerud said. “In a heartbeat I would do this again, even if I lost points. The girls loved it, they were so grateful and even though they did not win the class, they had the biggest smiles on afterwards and said that is was the most fun thing they had done,” Aanerud added.
Huot said she has never been so proud of her team.

“There’s so much more to competition than the actual competition. And on that day, my girls showed what showmanship is truly all about.”

Like her teammates Aanerud and Esselman, Baerg echoed the team’s spirit in the competition.

“If someone else was in my position I would say just to have fun with meeting new people and not to worry about the competition. It’s just a horse show, not the end of the world,” Baerg said. “I wish more people were like them, and were there to have fun instead of just worrying about winning. I’m not worried about it. I’m there to have fun and even if I win or lose I’m so lucky to be on that team and get that experience,” said Baerg.