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Back in the saddle again

First slide

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Michael Golinowski grew up on baseball diamonds, basketball courts, soccer fields and ice hockey rinks — watching his older siblings compete. But he didn’t enjoy any of those sports. Instead, he liked to be with animals. “When I was 8 years old, I just looked at my mom one day and said, ‘Hey, I kind of want to try to ride a horse,’ ” said Golinowski. 

As a kid, he would take lessons as often as he could on Saturday mornings. But as he learned more, he began to work at the barns. Long term, he’s hoping to turn his love of horseback riding into a career. In the fall, the graduate of Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries will head off with a n academic scholarship to Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Va., to ride on their show team and to minor in equine studies.

Even during the summer, he’s maintained a full gallop. Most days, Golinowski rises early to drive from his home in Burke to Cedar Creek Farm in Sterling. It’s important to beat the heat, said Golinowski, so when he arrives there’s already a list of things to do from the evening before. He tacks — or readies a horse with riding equipment — cleans them and then rides them, exercising each horse in a different way. When they’re done, he’ll wash the horse and the equipment to make sure everything is ready for the next day. 

Golinowski competes in hunters — where the horses are judged on how well they perform through a course, and equitation — where the rider is judged on their control of the horse. Unlike other sports, the competing season for horseback riding never really stops, said Golinowski.

 “The Virginia circuit, which is where (my) farm primarily goes to horse shows, is May through the beginning of September,” he said. “Then starting in December through March, there’s a big circuit in Ohio and Florida, and there’s a couple of smaller shows in Charlottesville.”

The competitions are hectic weekend affairs, but he and his parents have made getting to Sunday Mass a priority, even when asking to leave for a few hours is unnerving, said Golinowski. “A lot of my opportunities come from working for the trainer or through the manager so I feel under their control a little more. At any point they could say, ‘Hit the road, we don’t need you anymore,’ ” said Golinowski, who attends Church of the Nativity in Burke. “(I) have to be upfront and say, I need these two hours to get to church. I’ll work harder the rest of the hours to make up for it, but I need that time.”

What keeps him coming back to the barn is the bond he makes with the horses. “It’s just fun when you get on a horse — each one is their own individual — and they present a unique challenge. When it works and it works really well, there’s no other feeling like it,” he said. “When they put in that extra bit of effort because they want to please you, that’s just a really cool feeling.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018