CRESTVIEW — You might say Hayley Marshall is a trailblazer of sorts.
The Crestview High School graduate— who recently signed with South Dakota State University in Brookings — is the first local athlete to earn a scholarship in equestrian events.
“I’m going to be competing in horsemanship,” she said. “It’s patterns while you are riding the horse. It’s like (the Olympic event) dressage, only in a western style.
“I’ll be doing it on a quarter horse or whatever horse the school provides. They have about 50 horses and you have to ride a different horse every day.”
The western style is just one riding discipline offered at South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits also field a team in English riding. Approximately 30 riders are on scholarship in each discipline, but only five in each event can compete in each event.
Weekly competitions will determine who rides in the upcoming meet.
Finding a school
Marshall, a rider since she was 9, said just 20 schools offer an equestrian program and it isn’t easy getting into a program.
“You have to make videos of yourself and all the horses you’ve ridden and send them off to all the colleges that have equestrian teams,” she said. “If you are qualified enough, the schools you contact will offer you a scholarship.”
Crestview Principal Dexter Day is confident that Marshall will succeed in the horse arena as well the classroom.
“We are so proud of her and her accomplishments and what she is going to do to represent Crestview High,” he said. “You can’t go wrong with Hayley Marshall. It’s a big thing to springboard her into life and to do something she loves to do and get an education at the same time.
“My biggest thing is this girl is 22 hours from home. She’s in South Dakota. That takes a lot of courage for a student to leave Florida and go somewhere that it gets 60 degrees below 0 and be that far away from home.”
Marshall, who will major in animal science, isn’t too concerned about being 1,400 miles from home.
However, she is worried about the South Dakota winters.
For now, she's just ready to get on with the next chapter of her life.
“I’m just looking forward to the competition experience,” she said. “I just love to compete.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.