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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Welcome to the dirty T: Champion equestrian Cameron Kay found a change of pace here at UA

Courtesy Cameron Kay

After sitting on horseback at the mere age of 6, it became clear to now pre-business sophomore Cameron Kay that she had found her passion.

Originally from West Bloomfield, Michigan, Kay dedicated herself to horseback riding and set high goals for herself from a young age.

Every day after school, she drove two-and-a-half hours to a big show barn to practice and would stay overnight to ride all weekend before driving home on Monday. Unlike typical sports, Kay said there was a unique relationship built through the riding.

“It’s really special because for other sports, it’s simply you or possibly a team, but for horseback riding, it is you and an animal,” Kay said. “You have a special connection and relationship with your horse and know everything about that horse. You develop a human-like relationship.”

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As a junior in high school, Kay moved to Kentucky on her own to live with her trainers so she could better equip herself for competitions.

“All I did was ride and prepare,” Kay said. “I knew what I wanted to do: I wanted to make the U.S. team and I really wanted to win the Triple Crown.”

Kay plunged head-first into her passion. She started in homeschooling and would work out up to five times a day in order to strengthen her skills.

“There’s a lot of physical strength you have to have—you are basically controlling a 2,000-pound animal,” Kay said. “Obviously, the horses have great training and they take really good care of them, but a lot of it is you—the trainer can only do so much and you have to be physically fit. It’s definitely different than people think. Usually, they think it’s you just go and ride and it’s fun, but it’s a lifestyle. That’s all I did: sleep, eat, breathe, ride.”

Kay said that her small stature was a major motivator for her. In riding, she said they want tall and skinny girls, but Kay’s short height did not keep her away in the slightest.

Now with more than 13 years of experience, Kay holds over 15 world and national titles, including two Triple Crowns. She said making the U.S. Saddle Seat World Cup Team twice and competing in an Olympic-sponsored event in South Africa were her proudest accomplishments, though.

In addition to individual events, the equestrian competitions include team events where riders draw random horses out of a hat and are paired up to compete with each other.

“You have five minutes to connect with this horse, then you have to compete on it as if it was yours,” Kay said. “It’s really hard. There are a lot of times the team will get freaked out because we can’t get a horse to do something and the coaches are yelling at us, but it was so fun and you meet and make connections with so many different people.”

Kay said her favorite part of competitions was the intense adrenaline rush that comes with it. She constantly strived to incite that feeling.

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Along with physical strength and the pursuit of adrenaline, Kay said perseverance is one of the keys to riding success.

“You physically can’t do it without determination or something pushing you,” Kay said. “You can’t ride and not have determination—you have to set goals or you’re not going to be good or make it. I would say that’s the biggest part of the sport.”

Looking ahead, Kay intends to stay involved with the sport but not compete at the level she once did. While she contemplated going professional, Kay now prefers a change of pace.

“I definitely want to continue riding—once it is in your system, it’s hard to get out,” Kay said. “But I’m ready to see what else is out there in the world, because riding is all I’ve done. Now I go out to the barn just to hang out and see everybody—that’s where my family is. They have all known me since I was itty bitty and it’s honestly my comfort zone. The barn is my home.”

Correction: The article originally said Kay won three triple-crowns but she actually won two. 

Follow Lindsey Otto on Twitter.

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