Since the Dare Equestrian Team's inception in 2005, a national championship in the Western discipline had eluded its high school riders.
That changed during the International Equestrian Association nationals held June 27-29 at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City, as the competitors brought the title home to Dare Equestrian Center in Hilliard.
Linda Dare, who founded the program, said training is the key. At the competition, which was part of the National Reining Horse Association Derby, each rider receives his or her horse in a random drawing.
"When we practice, I have my riders work with all 14 horses," she said. "The riders take turns riding them every 10 minutes so that they can readily adapt because they don't get any warm-up time before competitions."
Dare's high school Western riders had recorded top-three national finishes each year of the team's existence, including reserve champion status in 2006, 2007 and 2010.
This time, Dare scored 25 points to finish ahead of reserve champion KM Equestrian of Findlay, which scored 23.
In the Western finals, points are awarded to individuals and added to reflect the team's overall score.
Placing first for Dare and earning seven points for their victories were recent Grove City graduate Ashley Reichert in Team Varsity Open Horsemanship and Hilliard Davidson junior Eddie Clark in Team Varsity Intermediate Horsemanship.
Reichert also was reserve champion in Team Varsity Open Reining to earn five points that helped Dare emerge victorious.
"It was kind of crazy because both of my events were the last two events of the day, so if I would not have done as well there, our team would have gone down in the standings," Reichert said.
In her final trip to nationals with her Dare teammates, it only seemed fitting to Reichert that both she and her team would take home victories.
"I couldn't have asked for a better way to end it," she said.
According to the IEA, the national finalists represented 33 teams from throughout the United States.
"I felt really happy that I was able to win (my event) over all of the other great riders that I competed against," Clark said.
Clark also said his individual win meant even more because it helped earn the team championship.
"We were all just very ecstatic that we won," he said.
Also for Dare, Dublin Coffman junior Ben Beckett was reserve champion in Individual Varsity Open Reigning, which, he said, "judges how well-trained the horse is and how well-guided they are."
Although he did not win the event, he was thrilled about the team's championship.
"I play football, too, so I wouldn't say this is something I've never experienced before," he said.
"But it's definitely something that you're thrilled to have when you win something like that, especially because this is the first time our high school team has won a championship."
Other riders who competed for Dare included Megan Ashbrook of Hilliard (sixth in Individual Varsity Intermediate Horsemanship), Mallory Baker of Upper Arlington (fifth in Individual Future Novice Horsemanship), Andrea Crickard of Hilliard (reserve champion in Team JV Beginner Horsemanship) and Morgan Ocock of Columbus (fifth in Individual JV Novice Horsemanship, sixth in Team JV Novice Horsemanship).
Crickard scored five points for Dare and Ocock scored one with her sixth-place finish.