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Sarah Sutherland excels as equestrian

Sarah Sutherland is a sophomore at Xavier and when she isn’t immersed in the academic rigor of school, she participates in a unique sport.

Sutherland has been horseback riding for nine years. It all started at age six in Chicago when her mom found a barn and signed her up for lessons.

Since then she has won many races and awards, including honors in the 2023 Arizona’s High Point Medal Rider, the Scottsdale Spring Festival 3-foot Championship (first place), the Tucson Fall Classic Modified Child/Adult Championship, and the Del Mar Summer Festival CPHA Child/Adult (second place). A month later she won fourth place at the same event, earning $1,500. She also has over 300 ribbons from a variety of show days.

Accompanying her while winning these awards, she has had help from her two horses, Toast and Finn. She has had Finn for almost three years and Toast, (who was imported from Germany,) for about six months.

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Sutherland explains that while it’s unique to compete in a non-verbal sport with an animal, it can also be difficult since they have minds of their own.

“You really bond with your horse,” said Sutherland. “I’ve worked a lot with them and continue to grow with them.”

Horseback riding is a difficult sport that can be challenging both physically and mentally. “Through the times she has had setbacks. There’s never been a time where she said I’m done,” said Sutherland’s mom, Renee Tartaglia.

Sutherland’s personal trainer Betty Beran explained that the struggles and sacrifices are what got her so far throughout this journey.

“It’s nice knowing that I accomplished this and bonded with my horses while doing it,” Sutherland said.

It’s not only Sutherland receiving awards, her horses are as well. Finn won the 2023 Arizona Horse Of  The Year Award, after accumulating more skilled points than any other horse in that division throughout the year.

“The continued bond I get to create with the people and horses, it’s just so special to me. It’s something I’m so passionate about,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland is a Division I prospect and rides with her team Interscholastic Equestrian Association. She was invited to be a team member on a Division I college team, meaning she is watched by college scouts to possibly receive offers for next year. On this team, she has been team captain for three years while being on the team for five years.

Not everything is always so smooth. Sutherland explains how after a bad show-day, she starts with a fresh mindset and that it’s not only deserving to her but also to her horse. This positive mindset has been a huge contributor to her and her horse’s increasing success.

“Six-year-old me would probably scream if she knew where I am today,” said Sutherland. “It’s something I would love to do for the rest of my life.”

Sutherland’s next competition is in January for the Desert International Horse Park in Thermal, California.

This story was originally published on XPress on November 30, 2023.