Athlete of the Week: Red the Horse

Pictured: Red the Horse, chewing on some grass. Photo courtesy of Ava Hingson (C’23).

By Claire Smith
Executive Editor

At 20 years old, our athlete of the issue is already a veteran of his field. Standing at 17.1 hands with a striking shock of coppery mane, Red the chestnut thoroughbred competes as a member of the Sewanee equestrian team.

As a youngster, Red tried his hoof on the race track, but found that his interests lie more in the world of eventing. Eventing is a three-day event where a single horse and rider compete against other pairs in dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. Red eventually began competing with Karine Gordy, and followed her up to Sewanee when she became the director of the Sewanee equestrian program. Since the fall of 2019, Red has worked with equestrian Ava Hingson (C’23).

Red enjoys the laid-back life of mountain living, especially as he settles in with a more mature crowd in the barn. When he isn’t practicing for eventing with Hingson, he’s joining her on trail rides around the Domain, or hanging around the equestrian center’s sprawling pastures with a group of older, retired horses called “the herd.”  Hingson said Red “wasn’t big on the race track lifestyle, but he really enjoys going on long trail rides and having a person with him.” He also knows how to enjoy the sweeter things in life, and even demands special, British spearmint candies over Clurg’s generic peppermint fare.

While Red might be enjoying the fruits of a long career, he still has a lot of gallop left. Hingson says, “I don’t know if it’s from his racing days, but he still gets so excited when I take him on a ride and let him gallop. Even though he’s getting older, you can’t take the spirit out of him.”

After years of experience, he’s also able to inspire those around him with his passion. Hingson, an experienced equestrian herself, had never done eventing before joining the Sewanee equestrian team in 2019, but now says that working with Red made her fall in love with the sport: “He taught me everything I know.”

Red commands a good deal of respect with both the human and equine crowd. Hingson said that the herd has a certain pecking order, and that “no one really messes with Red.”

This isn’t to say that Red’s career has been without its hardships. Several years ago, Red was bitten by a rattlesnake, which resulted in a painful, life-threatening swelling in his leg and a life-long fear of snakes. Hingson said that he looks to her for reassurance on their rides if he encounters something frightening, but that “with each trail ride we go on he gains more trust and more confidence.”

Red, Hingson, and their fellow equestrians have also had to adjust to life in the pandemic. While Red and his herd don’t have to worry about social distancing, their human counterparts certainly do. The barn, which Hingson described as a previous source of community and comradery, has had to divide lessons into smaller sections and limit the amount of shared spaces and equipment riders can use. 

Despite changes, Red and Hingson’s relationship remains strong: “I feel like the barn has been a safe haven for me. Being able to see Red, being able to ride, it’s the one place where I feel a real sense of normalcy.” 

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