Hudson Valley woman becomes first collegiate equestrian ever to have her jersey retired
An equestrian who trained in the Hudson Valley just received a big "first" in her sport.
Katherine Schmidt Butler learned to ride horses in North Salem, building her strong equestrian foundation across the Hudson Valley and Fairfield county, Connecticut.
"The area as a whole really fosters wonderful young riders and sets them up for success," Schmidt Butler said.
She then made it on the University of South Carolina's equestrian team as a Division 1 rider.
Her alma mater just honored her by retiring her jersey just before Thanksgiving, making her the first collegiate equestrian to ever have her jersey retired.
What set Schmidt Butler up particularly well was becoming a working student for one of the top trainers in the country, Andre Dignelli, at Heritage Farm in Katonah.
"There were days when I'd go to the horse show when I wouldn't know what horse I was showing," she recalled.
It's nerve-wrecking when other riders work with their own horses for years, but key for college riding when they have just minutes to get to know the horse they'll compete on.
"It's given these kids a real leg up not only in their life, but it's helped them with their college career and many of them with the cost of college," Dignelli said.
While proud and grateful, Schmidt Butler said, most importantly, she's excited about the recognition her jersey retirement brings to the sport she loves.
"Riding in college has been really beneficial to a lot of young women, so I think that is what I hope people pay attention," she said.
Schmidt Butler is now a professional in Virginia training the next generation of champions. She said many don't realize being a collegiate equestrian is just like being any other Division 1 athlete with academic standards, workouts, and practice.