Baraboo area equestrians win division, head to state competition

October 25, 2018 GMT

Sisters Autumn and Liana Klemm will be competing for a state horsemanship title next month, much to their surprise.

“Going into the qualifying show, we weren’t expecting much,” said Autumn, a Baraboo High School junior. “We just wanted to give my horse some experience and get (Liana) some experience, and it ended up working in our favor. We did really well.”

Autumn, 16, and St. John’s Lutheran School sixth-grader Liana, 11, comprise the Baraboo equestrian team, which competes in events through the Wisconsin Interscholastic Horsemanship Association. Baraboo High School started recognizing horsemanship teams several years ago to allow participants to letter, Autumn said, but the activity isn’t an official sport at the school.

While the elder sister has participated in WIHA events for five years, this is Liana’s first. Together, they placed first in Division D — for teams of one or two students — at the WIHA District 3 show held Oct. 13-14 in West Salem. District 3 covers southwest Wisconsin, including Sauk County.

“Since it was my first year, I didn’t really know what it was like, and so it felt pretty good to be able to make it to state,” Liana said.

Despite the competition being a new experience for Liana, horses are a regular part of the sisters’ lives. Autumn said she loved the animals from an early age — so much so that her parents gave her her first horse at 4. Their country home, located between Baraboo and Rock Springs, has enough land for a pasture and barn.

In third grade, Autumn started showing horses at the Sauk County Fair. As soon as she was eligible in sixth grade, she joined the equestrian team. Since then, she’s been to state twice, including last year when Baraboo’s team won first in its division.

Autumn’s enthusiasm proved contagious for her youngest sister, who is starting on the same equestrian path.

At WIHA events, judges evaluate riders on their interactions with their horses, how well the animals follow direction and their ability to memorize a pattern of steps and lead their horses through it, among other things.

With different criteria for the 18 different classes, choosing the ones in which to compete can be a strategic decision, according to Deanna Klemm, the sisters’ mother. Multiple students from one team can compete in the same class, as they earn points based on their placement which combine for the team’s overall score.

Autumn said she’s best in showmanship, where she leads her horse around obstacles from the ground, while Liana excels in the Western classes, which require holding the reins with one hand rather than two, wearing different clothes and using a different saddle.

Leading up to WIHA’s state competition Nov. 2-4, the Klemms will continue practicing patterns with their horses and taking them through obstacles. Autumn is using a different horse this year than before, adding a challenge for the seasoned competitor. The sisters practice three to five days per week for a couple hours each day and are coached by Megan Voss of Sauk City.

The state championship will be held at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.

“I think we’ll do pretty good,” Autumn said.