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Seminoles ride English

English Riders05HOLLYWOOD — Janae and Wren Bankston have been riding horses since they were too small to ride bikes. At the tender ages of 4 and 3 respectively, Janae and Wren learned to control 1,000-pound horses with confidence. Now at ages 10 and 7, the equestriennes are old hands at horsemanship, whether competing in a rodeo or English riding ring.

There are significant differences between riding English and Western style: English riders jump over obstacles, ensuring proper style and form, while Western rodeo riders, specifically barrel racers, focus on time in the ring, as well as steering clear of barrels.

The Bankston girls enjoy both equestrian pursuits and have earned about 30 ribbons each in their English riding competitions. The girls compete at the Heritage Horse Show at Volunteer Park in Plantation from September through July, and at the Circuit Awards Banquet held Aug. 17, they each earned awards for their performance through the season. Janae got 10th overall jumper rider, was runner up in the Froggy Jumper division (2-foot, 3-inch jumps) and received a saddle rack. Wren was the reserve grand champion for the walk and trot division and received a director’s chair with her name embroidered on it.

“English is weird because the bridle, saddle, girth and stirrups are different,” Wren said. “You have to be careful not to lean back and sit up straight.”

“I use my legs more in English and can’t be sloppy,” added Janae.

Dressed in their classic tan jodhpurs, helmets and shiny black riding boots, the girls elegantly take jumps with ease. They started riding English about two years after learning to ride Western style.

“Linda saw how well they ride,” said Celeste Foster, about her mother, Linda Sluder, who owns the Spun Gold Equestrian Center in Davie. “Their body style is built to ride English; it just comes naturally to them. Not many kids are versatile enough to do both.”

When riding English, Janae and Wren handle the horses differently than riding Western style; they ride in smaller saddles, control the reins with two hands, and post – or rise and sit in the seat of a saddle – during a trot.

“They just love to ride,” said Christine Nevaquaya, the girls’ grandmother. “I’m glad they ride English because I think it makes them better horsemen.”

Their grandfather Sonny Nevaquaya couldn’t help but notice his granddaughters are often mistaken for Hispanic.

“It’s not often you see Native American girls riding English,” he said.

Regardless of the ring they compete in, both girls are happy to be riding.

“I like winning,” said Wren, who at age 5 won the peewee division at the Kids’ Summer Buckle Rodeo Series at the Bergeron Rodeo Grounds in Davie.

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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