Orange Lutheran junior Embry Fleischman has taken what might be described as an unlikely path as an athlete. What began as a simple love for horses as a young girl has turned into a full-fledged passion for training and competing in equestrian.
“I love participating in equestrian because it gives me an outlet to get away from all the struggles in the world,” says Fleischman. “I can tune out everything that’s going on, and I can just focus on my horses.”
Prior to starting high school at OLu, Fleischman began training at Anaheim Hills Saddle Club under the direction of trainer Edgar Pagan. There she spends upwards of six hours each day with her six-year old Thoroughbred, Flynn, and her nine-year old Oldenburg, Capone.
Unlike traditional sports such as soccer, basketball or lacrosse, a sport the 16-year old played when she was younger, Fleischman does not put away her gear after practice and head home. Her equestrian “equipment” is a living, breathing, majestic animal that requires a level of attention not typically required of most athletes.
“This is a 24/7 job,” says Fleischman. “You always have to be on your toes. You never know what’s going to happen, and you have to be there to care for them.”
Fleischman has been competing locally for approximately one year under the governing body of the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA), where she trains in the hunter discipline. Unlike show jumping, which measures speed and the amount of time it takes for the horse to complete a series of jumps, hunters are evaluated subjectively on quality of movement as the horse navigates the jumps. Judges score on aspects such as style, elegance and pace.
Despite being a rookie on the competition circuit, Fleischman was awarded Grand Champion last year in the first show she attended, a moment that remains one of her favorites in the sport.
“It showed me that my hard work and my time and effort had paid off,” says Fleischman.
The uniqueness of working alongside an animal as she trains to compete has opened Fleischman’s eyes to becoming more confident and trustworthy, areas she admits are her biggest challenges. But working with her horses to build that trust and stepping out of her comfort zone have allowed her to keep moving forward.
“It’s just me and the horse,” says Fleischman. “I have to put my patience and my trust into him, and I will be rewarded with his trust in return.”
Fleischman’s life in equestrian has required many sacrifices, but one area she refuses to compromise is her education. Being able to attend OLu as a blended student has allowed her to maintain full participation in both her school and her sport. Not only has it removed a significant amount of stress from her daily responsibilities, OLu’s blended program is keeping her on track for life after high school.
With a strong interest in pursuing the medical field, Fleischman is researching colleges that offer a pre-medicine or pre-veterinary program, as well as an equestrian team, as she hopes to continue competing as a student athlete.
Equestrian may not be a typical team sport, but the life lessons Fleischman has gained so far, such as responsibility and patience, are preparing her for her next steps. As she gains more competition experience, she hopes work her way up to a Grand Prix award, which is the equivalent of a state championship.
Goals such as the ones Fleischman has her sights set on are fueled by the inspiring stories and work ethic of a number of her role models, including championship barrel racer and paraplegic Amberley Snyder, Kobe Bryant and equestrian trainer Patrice Quinlan.
But above all, Fleischman looks to her faith for guidance and protection.
“I would be nowhere without God,” says Fleischman. “He chose this path for me. None of the wins, none of the Grand Championships, none of the firsts…would have been possible if it wasn’t for him. He’s always had my back. I’ve had some pretty serious falls, and he’s always kept me safe. He’s always been there for me.”
For a compilation of quotes from Embry's interview click HERE.