Dehlia Burdan knows the level of hard work and dedication it takes to ride horses and compete on the equestrian show circuit.
“The sense of accomplishment that you get when you work with a horse that’s 1,200 pounds and doesn’t necessarily have to do what you want him to do – it’s a beautiful thing,” Burdan said. “There’s really nothing else like it in the world.”
Burdan, an equestrian trainer, is partnering with Aces High Acres in Derby to form the state’s first equestrian team for middle school and high school riders.
The team, which she hopes to establish in coming months, would be part of the Interscholastic Equestrian Association, practicing year-round and traveling to competitions in Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas. Team members won’t need to own their own horses but should have some riding experience.
“Teams like this are a great way for young people to learn about the sport, especially if they want to ride in college,” Burdan said. “This kind of experience, traveling to shows and competing as part of a team – that’s pretty special.”
Burdan, a former member of the Kansas State University equestrian team, said she qualified for regional and national championships while in college. Now she trains other riders in show jumping, dressage and other events.
Her Wichita-area team will be starting as many equestrians worry about the long-term future of the sport. In October, K-State announced its decision to drop equestrian as one of its 16 sponsored sports and to replace it with women’s soccer. Fewer than 40 NCAA institutions sponsor equestrian as a sport, and only 19 are Division I schools.
That doesn’t discourage Burdan, though. She said teams like the one she’s starting in Wichita can create awareness and spark interest among a whole new generation of riders.
Burdan has partnered with The Independent School, a private school in east Wichita, for a week-long clinic this summer that will teach students horsemanship, introduction to riding and IEA rules.
“I have learned so much from riding,” said Johanna Yang, a sixth-grader at Independent. “I have learned to have patience, yet to take the reins and command the horse.
“Riding is very therapeutic,” she added. “If you’ve had a bad day and you just want to let go of all that stress, riding is a great option.”
Autumn Ramos, a sophomore at Eisenhower High School in Goddard, said she plans to participate in the new IEA team “to gain experience competing on different horses and (to) become a better rider.”
Although equestrian team members won’t be required to own a horse, the sport isn’t cheap. Lessons and practices are at least $40 a week, and members will have to pay for their riding attire, travel costs and entry fees. The season runs from about September to March; postseason competitions, for riders who qualify, continue through May.
Burdan said the new Wichita team likely would attend five or six competitions a year, primarily in Oklahoma and Texas. She said the team would hold fundraisers to help absorb some of the costs.
“My dad said it was the best money he ever spent – especially when I was in high school, because he never once had to worry about where I was or what I was doing,” Burdan said. “For me it ended up working out because it ended up paying for my college.”
If you go
Equestrian team meeting
What: Dehlia Burdan will host an information session for students and parents wanting details about a new Interscholastic Equestrian Association team starting up in Wichita. Participants must be in sixth through 12th grade. You don’t need to own a horse.
When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Aces High Acres, 9200 E. 39th St. South
How much: The meeting is free. To participate on the team, however, members must commit to costs associated with weekly lessons, personal equipment, entry fees and travel to equestrian competitions.
Information: Go to AcesHighAcres.com, or contact Burdan at 785-410-8637.