Christine Terpening
Contributing Writer

(Photo Provided)


For many people, the sound of clippety-clop makes the heart thump along to the beat. The smell of a four-legged whinnying friend releases endorphins like no other. Money takes on less importance to horse people until it’s time to fill the barn with hay. Horses teach us lessons about life, patience, and love. If you are lucky enough to have a horse, you’re lucky enough.

Coach Jenna Chynoweth knows full well the lessons a horse provides, and she shares her knowledge and passion with students at Charlotte Public Schools. Chynoweth coaches both a junior team for fifth through eighth grades as well as the high school team for ninth through 12th grades.

Competitors gather for competitions at Ingham County Fairgrounds for a limited number of horse shows. The Junior team for one weekend and the high school team for three shows spread over two weekends. At these shows they compete in three different disciplines: hunt seat, saddle seat and western. Under those, competition includes showmanship, halter pattern, equitation pattern, bareback riding, trail class and speed and action classes. In addition, there are specialty classes: hunt seat includes hunter jumping, saddle seat includes a long pattern and western riders compete in ranch riding/reigning. The junior team offers classes in walk and trot for novice riders. High schoolers must lope, also known as canter.

Students are allowed to enter two horses for each competition. Often, a horse is trained in certain skills and the youth is fortunate to have another horse to compete in a variety of other events. Horses have big hearts and often are versatile enough to execute any event the youth ask of them. Teams are broken into divisions based on the amount of competitors they have in the saddle. Top teams compete at regionals and then to state finals which are held at the Midland County Fairgrounds.

If a student does not have their own horse, Chynoweth can help you with options to lease a horse. There are also two manager positions for those who want to learn and help even though they don’t have equine access.
The junior team competes in the spring for which Charlotte equestrians Reagan and Cecilia won the championship in their division. This shows promise for the high school team that will compete in the fall. This team is in the process of forming.

“Charlotte has had a team, but it was hit and miss with having a coach for a long time.” says Chynoweth. About to begin her third year as the seventh and eighth grade art teacher, this equestrian coach hopes to bring the stability needed for the equestrian team. The coach comes with a long line of horse experience to share with students. Her career started by saving up as a youth for her own horse. That purchase propelled her into competition in western, saddle seat and, her favorite, the trail class. Chynoweth was a member of the Howell Equestrian Team. She admits, “As silly as it sounds, when I went to school to be a teacher, I dreamed of being a middle school art teacher and an equestrian team coach.” Chynoweth now helps students attain their dreams.
High school equestrian teams abide by the rules and code of conduct of the MIHA, the Michigan Interscholastic Horsemanship Association. Chynoweth is quick to remind everyone that everyone involved with this organization are volunteers, from coaches to those who tend the gates. “It’s an everlasting friendship you make with your horse and the other riders,” Chynoweth added.

As of now, the Charlotte Equestrian Team is a club sport, but Coach Chynoweth has plans to make it a varsity sport once all requirements are met. “The ball is rolling,” she stated. The team will be a club for two more years and will then be varsity eligible.

The fall season is about to begin. Equestrians from Charlotte High School, as well as St. Mary’s, interested in joining the team may contact the coach by emailing Ms. Chynoweth at You can find Charlotte Equestrian Team on Facebook. If you have an arena and would be willing to host practice for this team, you can also message Coach Chynoweth.