By Lindsey Boyd:
Five-time world champion, “Too many to count” state-and-zone-title winner and San Jose State freshman, Lauren McNabb has to decide whether to go to the biggest horse show in the nation or take her biology final exam — all because she does not have the privilege to move tests or finals like an official SJSU athlete does.
“I’ll probably be missing that final which is really unfortunate,” said McNabb as she checked her loaded schedule.
For six days a week, five hours a day, McNabb is at her San Martin barn riding horses with trainer Melissa Sachs. She is preparing for competition this season in classes including Showmanship, English Style, Western Style and her favorite — Trail.
McNabb’s mother Judy instilled a love for horses when she placed her two-year-old daughter on a horse. Judy actually grew up teaching Sachs riding tricks until high school when life took them separate ways.
However, when McNabb decided at the age of ten that she wanted to take horseback riding lessons, Judy and Sachs’ worlds collided.
Not only does McNabb practice under her mother’s friend but, “My mom bought a horse that Melissa and her mother bred,” said McNabb. “and now we are all in this family and it’s come full circle.”
This same horse, Joshua, is her “ride or die” that McNabb won her world, state and zone titles.
The secret to world champion success is not only her horse, but in McNabb’s humble and dedicated character.
“What my trainer always says is it’s ‘hours in the saddle’ which is time and dedication doing what you love,” McNabb said. “It shows when I’m the first there and last to leave.”
For the California state reserve, horseback riding has become such a large part of her life that she can’t see herself without it. She commits to both her barn and her studies, however, balancing a highly competitive sport schedule as un-recognized athlete at SJSU can be difficult.
“It’s a little disheartening when I get partial credit on something when I’m not going to be there for [class] because I’ll be at a competition,” McNabb said.
It’s an everyday struggle for horseback riding to be recognized as a legitimate sport by professors who repeatedly state that they will only move tests around if there’s a doctor’s note or a request from an SJSU coach.
“I think we should be treated like normal athletes,” McNabb said.
She suggested that SJSU set up an independent study program where the school could recognize her sport as credible and have her coach’s notes be considered as valid as an SJSU Coach’s notes. A similar program was set up for her in high school.
For now, she will have to miss her 7 a.m. final for her 9 a.m. flight to South Jordan, Utah where she will attend APHA Zone 2, the largest show in the nation. There, she will defend her first-place ranking. Last year, she swept her competition and scored first under all 10 judges.
This season will be especially exciting for McNabb because she’ll be showing a new horse, Duet, in the 18 and under youth all-around division. She will still continue to show Joshua in other classes.
“I’m always up to learning new lessons which I think is really important if you want to be good at something,” McNabb said on her key to consistently bettering herself. “You are never done learning.”