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Sports Talk: Horsing around, and good for them

Ride like the wind, these teenagers do, and that’s where the fun starts.

Horsing around in North County often means surfing, skateboarding and everything else under the sun. But for these daughters, they’d rather saddle up than hang 10 or shred an empty swimming pool.

“We’re all horse girls,” Dayle Fisher said.

Let us introduce the Mustang Equestrian team and you can usually find its members, and coach Fisher, in one spot.

“We’re always at the barn with our horses,” Fisher said.

But this group of North County residents aren’t just trotting for kicks. They compete in the Orange County Interscholastic Equestrian League, one of just four San Diego County teams to do so.

What’s keen is some of the girls on the Mustangs attend San Dieguito Academy while others matriculate at Torrey Pines High. These rival schools join forces in competition, brought together by four-legged creatures that they care for at the EE Show Stables in Rancho Santa Fe.

For a school like San Dieguito, which has a horse as a mascot, what could be better?

“They just started their team last year and they are doing a really good job,” Fisher said.

Fisher should know as she also directs the Cathedral Catholic High squad. It finished fourth, out of 45 teams, last season in the OCIEL. That’s an impressive result considering the number of riders Cathedral features compared to other squads.

The Dons’ success is no surprise as Fisher was once a star rider for Cathedral before continuing her career, thanks to making hay on a full ride to the University of California, Davis.

Female athletes getting their college paid for by saying “giddy-up?” Who knew?

“There are a lot of colleges that have big-time equestrian teams and offer scholarships,” said Tory Holway, whose daughter, Cameron, is a standout for the Mustangs. “We’ve had kids go to Auburn, Ole Miss, California and other schools.”

But learning the equestrian ropes takes time. The girls practice up to five days a week for nearly three hours after school.

“That’s a lot of dedication,” the elder Holway said.

And mucho work.

“Like I tell them, ‘you are responsible for this breathing, living animal,”’ Fisher said.

The younger Holway, with a horse named “Hitchi,” agreed.

“I feel like no one except equestrians really truly understand the connection between horse and rider,” she said. “It’s a really amazing thing that’s difficult to understand if you haven’t felt it.”

Plus, there’s trying to stay in one piece. When a jump doesn’t go right or a rider gets the wrong leverage when balancing her body on the horse’s back, well, all gallops aren’t necessarily smooth.

“It’s not all rainbows,” Troy Holway said. “It can be a very dangerous spot and we can match injuries with any high school football team in the county.”

San Dieguito quit playing football years ago. Still, these savvy girls are always reminded to block that kick if a horse gets testy.

“It doesn’t always go as planned,” Fisher said.

Although the show goes on and next up is a show on Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 at the Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano. The girls compete in dressage, western and hunter jumper events.

Some compare it to a track meet, except that the athletes are on horses. They jump, sprint, turn corners and display control on the back of an animal that often has a mind of its own.

Don’t mind if the girls, such as Hannah McGill, Amelia Young, Ireland Fravel, Taber Ball, Lina Gruber and Holway, absorb an education that is far more than staying atop of horse. The sport encourages horsemanship, stable management, equine anatomy and physiology and promotes teamwork in a friendly, but spirited, environment.

It’s fun, but it comes with a cost. The riders wanted to make sure the folks at Mary’s Tack and Feed in Del Mar, who sponsored their forgiving seat pads, get their due. Because of help from others, the girls get to bond as one.

“It’s really cool that we can all come together to compete because riding is typically an individual sport,” Cameron Holway said. “It’s fun to get to experience of being on a team with other people.”

And other horses.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him @jparis_sports