Training for the Sonoma State Equestrian Team heats up on a blustery spring day at Petaluma Hill Stables. Carrie Hober, coach of the Sonoma State Equestrian Team for the past ten years, speaks with enthusiasm and hope as she prepares Sonoma State students Sanne Put and Maddison Marnin for the west coast qualifier that will take place at Stanford Apr. 6. Put and Marnin hope to travel to the east coast nationals if they have a good showing at Stanford.
Hober trains her team at her Petaluma Hill Stables, a business of boarding, training and riding that has been active the past 27 years. As a coach, Hober utilizes all the characteristics of any good teacher. Her patience and her knowledge are evident during any workout. Always encouraging her students, always alert to every detail necessary for safety, Hober gently calls out instructions to the rider: “Walk, stretch, canter, trot, arch, shorten the reins.” Like any great teacher, she is repeating, praising, correcting all calmly, evenly but always with an eye to improving the rider and the event.
Carrie Hober has spent a lifetime with horses. Growing up in Carmel, horse back riding came into her life early. She and her husband moved to Petaluma Hill Stables after some early years in the south bay. She lives horses and teaching equestrian skills seven days a week.
Living like Hober would be a dream come true for Sanne Put and Maddison Marnin. Competing on the equestrian team may be next best thing. Put, who grew up in Alameda, like Hober, has been involved with horses nearly all of her life. She began competing when she was a freshman in high school five years ago. Much of her training took place in the Oakland hills. Now in her second year on the equestrian team, she looks forward with some anxiety and some excitement to the east coast challenge, catch riding. This means that she will ride an unknown horse selected from a draw, the ultimate equestrian challenge.
While her family now lives in San Diego, Maddison Marnin lived in Omaha, Nebraska, until she was 14. Riding had been a big part of her childhood, so competitive riding followed logically when she started at Sonoma State. While controlling the horse and leading through jumps are major equestrian tasks, the rider’s posture is no less important. So many things to think of: head up, eyes forward, heels angled and connected to the horse’s flank. None of this comes second nature.
Put and Marnin walked Bentley, a mature gentleman, down to the “Tunnel of Trees” for a Robert Grant photo session. With the equestrian ladies standing to the left and right of him, Bentley proudly held his head high as Robert and I clucked at him and waved notepaper above our heads. With the public relations shots completed, Bentley went back to the training area. With Maddison on board, Bentley trotted, cantered, arched, stretched, and hipped (whatever that is) as Coach Hober called out instructions. Later, Put led the fine gentleman through a series of jumps.
Clearly, hard work, much training and detailed learning are as necessary for an equestrian as they are for athletes of all kinds of sports and competitions. The next time you see a young lady in the grocery store wearing a black thermal vest with a large white “S” followed by a horse’s head and underscored in small capital letters “SONOMA STATE” and below this in lovely script, “Equestrian”, you may realize that you have seen a potential national champion. With all the traditional college sports distracting us, who knew that there are many colleges in California and in the nation that have an equestrian team. Well, it only takes a little horse sense.