MONROE — Every year, dozens of top high school athletes from Snohomish County earn college scholarships to compete in football, basketball, soccer and other traditional varsity sports.
Equestrian, not as many.
But it happened this year to Barbara Crosby, a 17-year-old senior at Sultan High School.
Based on her showing last August at the American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Championships in Oklahoma City, Crosby received a partial scholarship to be part of the equestrian team at Kansas State University.
“It’s a lot of feelings,” admitted Crosby, a former soccer player who also takes Running Start classes at Everett Community College. “Excited, but also butterflies in the tummy and those sorts of things. … It’s kind of a lot. You’re really excited, but at the same time you don’t want to let anybody down.”
“I’m so excited for her,” said her mother, Renay Crosby. “She’s worked really hard for what she has, and I think she’ll be a huge asset to the team. To have something this exciting happen in your college years is such a great opportunity for anyone.”
Crosby started begging her parents for a pony when she was 5 years old, but she ended up with ponies at a backyard birthday party and a year’s worth of riding lessons. She began competing a year later and has continued through high school, riding mostly at events in the Pacific Northwest.
Her trip to Oklahoma last summer was the furthest she has gone to compete, and it was also her first world competition. College coaches were on hand and she spoke with coaches from Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Last Christmas she took unofficial visits to South Dakota State and Kansas State, and the latter offered her a scholarship later in the winter. She made her commitment official in April.
Crosby has two horses — an 8-year-old named Gracie and a 13-year-old named Pokey — but neither horse will accompany her to college. Given the expense of transporting horses, not to mention the costs for care and feeding, college equestrian teams have their own stables of horses. When visiting teams come to compete, they use the host school’s horses; for fairness, two women compete alternately on the same horse.
According to the National Collegiate Equestrian Association, the collegiate governing body based in Waco, Texas, college teams compete in four events — western horsemanship, reining, hunter seat equitation on the flat, and hunter seat equitation over fences. Crosby will compete in western horsemanship, which essentially judges riders on appearance and their ability to guide the horse while doing various patterns and at differing gaits.
Crosby keeps her horses at a stable in Monroe, and she trains four or five days a week, often with trainer Paige Stroud of Snohomish. It was Stroud who guided the Crosbys through the recruiting process, “and without her to help us through all this and to work everything out, we’d have been so lost,” Renay Crosby said. “We wouldn’t have this opportunity without her.”
Barbara Crosby loves competing, but says she also enjoys those opportunities when she can simply ride for pleasure.
“There are mornings,” she said, “when there’s nobody here and I’m just riding by myself. It’s really peaceful. … I don’t work on things. I just ride because I want to ride.”
And she expects to continue riding even after she finishes college
“I don’t really see me stopping any time,” she said. “I want to keep doing this for the rest of my life. It’s just something I enjoy doing, and why stop something you enjoy?”