Equestrian riding is an event sport that involves three stages in which the team and each individual rider are judged on. The stages are dressing, show jumping and cross country.
Two time National winner of the American Eventing Championship and gold medalist, McKinsey Wickman, shares her journey to becoming an equestrian rider. Her story starts when her parents decided to move to Prosper, Texas in 2004, she was only 6 years old when she began riding.
“When my parents moved to Prosper, we moved into a neighborhood with acreage and where homeowners could keep horses,” Wickman said. “I became best friends with one of my neighbors and she had a pony. We would play around with the pony a lot and I finally convinced my parents to buy [my] own.”
Thus, Wickman’s enjoyment for riding began. Now, she trains six days a week in preparation for her competitions. Wickman and her trainer lay out a plan for the following six months to become more prepared.
Becoming a young equestrian athlete could run in conflicts for balancing a social life and commitment. Wickman’s life as a teenager is not your typical one. The life of the equestrian rider is a tug war between school and the sport. This caused her to enroll in an online school sophomore year after missing so much her freshman year of high school.
“With the amount of time I have dedicated to this sport, I have faced a few challenges such as struggling with school and trying to live the life of a normal teen. At the level I am at now, I need to travel all over the country for competitions so I can gain the experiences necessary to continue moving up the levels,” discusses Wickman.
“This past year we traveled to Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Montana. Therefore, it has been very difficult for me to do all the things teenagers normally do. Instead of figuring out how to get to the football game on Friday night, I am figuring out how to fit in my training hours at the barn with my school schedule.”
Wickman’s busy and complex schedule can be stressful but her parents have always been supportive of her decisions and accomplishments.
“We are unbelievably proud of McKinsey’s accomplishments,” says Wickman’s father. “She laid out specific goals and then worked very hard to meet them. When she made the Area V Young Rider team in 2017 and then had a stop on X county and went from 1st place to way down in the placings, she was so upset because she felt she let everyone down. She came back from that show and set out a plan to get selected again to be on the Young Rider team in 2018, but she knew that they (McKinsey and Pro) needed to get more experience and be more prepared.”
With Wickman’s achievements and talent, there is no reason not to dream big. The young gold medalist has plans to be in America’s top prestigious group for horse riding.
“I want to further my career in eventing to compete at the top levels and hopefully one day compete for the US National Team at the Olympics,” says Wickman. “I know that my road to the Olympics will not be a fairytale path, it will be more like a path with lots of bumps along the way.”
Wickman’s compassion and dedication for her sport could be a great example for younger generations who would like to begin a new hobby or skill. The small town girl’s mark can hopefully inspire more to never give up and to work as hard as they can for a goal they wish to achieve.