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Senior, Taylor Dixon competing at an event. (Fresno State Athletics)

Two riders share journey to senior year

The Fresno State equestrian team is hopping back on its horses as it prepares for this season’s competition. For Fresno State seniors Taylor Dixon and Kylina Chalack, this will be their last collegiate season.

The team ended the 2016-17 season with a 9-8 overall record, Dixon and Chalack hope to show their team that they can be those riders at the top as well as leave a lasting impression.

“Our team kind of floats around in the rankings, but we have a solid base now, and I think this year can really be our year to show everybody that we are a really good team,” Chalack said.

Dixon plans on leaving her senior year knowing she went all in. She is the 2015-16 National Collegiate Equestrian Association’s Second Team All-American for Horsemanship. 

Born in Dover, Delaware, Dixon got her first pony at the age of 4 after deciding to follow in her mother’s footsteps.  By the age of 6, Dixon was competing in the Western section.

In high school, Dixon was collecting various accolades like Youth Junior Horsemanship, Youth Senior Hunter under Saddle and many more.

Dixon felt comfortable with Fresno State’s equestrian team and the agricultural community.

“I was a [Future Farmer of America] in high school, so I felt the connection on my recruit trip,” Dixon said.

Like Dixon, Chalack traveled a long way. She was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. From the age of 4, she knew she wanted to become a horse rider.

“My mom is a horse trainer and breeder,” Chalack said. “So it was kind of a given that I was gonna follow the same path as her.”

Before Fresno State, Chalack placed sixth in the Canadian Equestrian Team’s Medal Regionals, won 2012 Jump Alberta Sportsmanship Award and finished top two in the Maclay/Pesspa and Jump Canada.

Chalack joked that she no longer wanted to live in Canada’s cold anymore before enrolling at Fresno State. She loved the agriculture program and the friendly team.

As seniors, Chalack and Dixon each ride different styles. Chalack is an English rider and Dixon is a Western rider.

Position being hunt seat, one can find Chalack in the hunt coat and helmet riding her way toward another accolade.

In her three collegiate years, Chalack has won NCEA and United Equestrian Conference’s Equitation on the Flat Rider of the Month.

As for Dixon, she rides with a full face of makeup, featured with a bold lipstick as she competes in the Western section.

“The idea with the dark eye makeup and the dark lipstick is you want to be able to disguise the fact that you’re facial expressions changed or you looked down,” Dixon said. “The makeup prevents that from being noticed by a judge.”

Horsemanship riders are judged on their physical appearance on the horse, the way they sit and their appearance as they ride.

By Dixon’s junior year of college, she had received two yearly accolades: NCEA Second Team All-American and UEC Horsemanship Rider of the year.

With every great competitor, there is a cheerleader, No.1 fan, or in Chalack’s and Dixon’s case, a horse riding it out with them.

After many competitions and growth spurts, Dixon and Chalack retired many horses.

Chalack came across many different horses since she was raised on a farm. But she had only a handful of serious ones.

For Dixon, she has had four horses throughout her youth and amateur career. One even came with her to Fresno State.

“I showed my huntsy horse for two years, and I still have him,” Dixon said. “I actually brought him to college with me, and he is a team horse now.

Chalack and Dixon each have personal horses, but their team horses are who they compete with at Fresno State.

“They’re usually donated to us for various reasons, health, maintenance or [people] just have a hard time selling them,” Dixon said. “We usually give them a tax write-off when they donate to the university.”

When new horses arrive, every rider gets to ride them the first couple of weeks to get to know them and see where they’re at competition wise.

“Sometimes you a get a really nice show horse that is super trained and super easy to navigate and then sometimes you get one that is not as trained,” Dixon said. “Our job as collegiate riders is to adjust to what horses we’re given.”

Chalack believes there is always a risk when you put your foot in the stirrup.

After months of training with their team horses, each rider has a few horses they get along with a little better than others.

Satin, one of the horses, has his name played with. Chalack and Dixon explain that it’s like a fabric, not Satan. Though the latter is not far from the truth, they said.

“We joke about that because we say he has two personalities, so they both fit him depending on the day,” Chalack said.

Joking and adjusting to the horses is a rewarding experience for the seniors as it has proved to be important during competitions.

“It’s a really special moment when you go out and give it your all and you can feel the horse give it theirs as well, and at that moment we’ve meshed together,” Chalack said. “This horse was there for me, and I was there for it.”

Coming into their senior year, Dixon and Chalack want to enjoy their last year, but still check some goals off their list.

“My personal goal… I’ve been chasing after an All-American for the past three years, and I would love to be able to finish the year in an All-American position,” Chalack said.

Chalack, an agriculture business major, plans on moving back to Canada after college. Under her coach and mom, Catherine, she hopes to become a professional horse rider.

Dixon is majoring in sports administration and wants to attend law school.

Dixon and Chalack will showcase their talents Sept. 9 for a team scrimmage at the Horse Center on campus.

The equestrian team is set to start its 2017-18 season on Sept. 22 against Texas A&M. After that, the team will face 12 other teams before ending their season.

“I want to leave this year knowing I did the most I could for my team,” Dixon said. “I’m going to go all they way in and try to make it the best I could.