DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

XCP rider Kenzie Riddell sits tall in the saddle

Kenzie Riddell likely will have to miss the first few days of her freshman year at Xavier Prep later this year as well as the freshman dinner.
But she has a good reason.
From Aug. 24-28, she will be one of 15 national participants and the only one from Arizona to compete in the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s Dressage Seat Medal Finals in the Chicago suburb of Wayne, Ill.
For those unfamiliar with dressage, here is the description via Wikipedia: According to the International Equestrian Federation, dressage is "the highest expression of horse training" where "horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements."

Incoming XCP freshman Kenzie Riddell will participate in a national dressage event in late August. (Photo courtesy of Riddell family).

 Riddell has been riding for most of her life and the sport has long been a part of her family on her mother’s side. Her uncle and grandmother have been involved in the business and her mother, Wendy, has been riding for a long time and continues to compete.
Wendy Riddell is a graduate of Xavier and recently was named to the school’s Board of Trustees.
“She has been riding every day, before and after school, and it seems to come natural to her,’’ Wendy Riddell said.
Kenzie has been taking a summer class at XCP in Digital Arts. She is getting to know where things are on campus.
She takes care of horses at the family stable, feeds and grooms them.
She rode a female pony, Angel, for a long time but outgrew that animal and now rides a bigger horse, a male named Fashion.
“I love the relationship you can develop with the animal,’’ Riddell said. “For a long time, Angel seemed happy only when I was around her and it’s sort of the same thing with Fashion.’’
Riddell will not ride her own horse at the Medal Finals, but will show up in Illinois a day or two early to become acquainted with the horse she will ride.
She has competed in Arizona’s Interscholastic Equestrian Association where riders pull a horse’s name out of a hat and compete with that horse. So following a similar format at the Medal Finals should not come as a surprise.
Wendy Riddell has competed in that format, and said, “it is very challenging.’’
Kenzie said riding under the format in such an important national competition “will be a little nerve-wracking, but going early should help. You will be able to sense how the horse feels, know by how they hold their head and what their ears do.’’
“Yes, it’s how they rotate them,’’ she said. “If they’re pinned back, they’re probably angry. If they are forward, they should be more focused. What you want to do as a rider is have one forward so they can focus and the other back a little so they will be able to listen to you.’’
She will be dressed in a formal riding outfit. She enjoys the atmosphere that surrounds the sport.
“It’s really a lot of hard work, but there are a lot of friendly people around to help you,’’ she said.
She knows that it will take a lot of hard work when the stakes are raised and she enters Xavier for the full year.
There is a list of clubs she has looked at and is considering robotics, mock trial or being a student ambassador.
“I am a little nervous about starting, but I will be ready to make up any work that I miss,’’ she said of her absence. “At the same time, I am excited about coming to Xavier and I know it will be a wonderful experience.’’

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