Coats, a junior majoring in anthropology from Bend, competes in equestrian hunter/jumper shows along the West Coast and Canada. Last year, she was champion in her division for Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. She was also named reserve champion in four divisions in the Oregon Hunter Jumper Association.
As one of the top 12 riders in her national age group, Coats qualified for the Capital Challenge, held each year in Maryland. She hopes to earn this distinction again this year.
For Coats, who has been riding since age 8, sailing over three-and-a-half-foot fences is as natural as riding a bike. Her partner is Baker, a dark bay thoroughbred gelding with a white diamond emblazing his forehead.
I have an amazing bond with my horse, she said of Baker, whose show name is Got Lucky. I trust him to take care of me. We are partners in what we do and I can tell that he always tries his hardest to do his best for me. It is a wonderful feeling to have such a strong connection with an animal.
Coats also shows a second thoroughbred, Pete, known competitively as Incahoots.
The sport is a tremendous time commitment, but one Coats thoroughly enjoys. Working with a trainer in Newberg, Coats rides four times a week on arena jumping courses and the path around the surrounding property. Before bringing Baker to Newberg, Coats worked with a Eugene trainer for two years, and made the four-hour round trip commute twice a week to take lessons.
Through it all, Coats has found a healthy balance between her love of riding and the other activities in her life, including her education.
Riding has taught me a lot of responsibility and dedication to one thing, she said. Thats carried over into other areas of my life. Im a committed person, and I think a lot of that comes from what Ive learned having to care for an animal and put so much time into one thing. Im really focused when I do something.
Over the years, shes learned to handle the intense pressure of competition and doesnt get as nervous as she once did.
It was hard when I was younger but Ive gotten used to it, she said. Ive learned to know what I want to accomplish and whats good for me and then be happy about that, rather than listening to what somebody else says or what place I get.
Coats love of horses will most likely factor in as she makes decisions about graduate school and her career.
Riding is such a big part of my life, she said. I want to be able to take my horse wherever I go, or at least have access to another horse to ride.