Teen of the Week: Parkersburg Catholic student finds normalcy during pandemic with equestrian competition
PARKERSBURG — First starting horseback riding when she was just 3 years old, Parkersburg Catholic High School senior Ella Schaffer has gone on to evolve her love of riding by competing in equestrian and showing competitions for the past couple of years for a local team in the area.
Having her mother and grandmother both being experienced in horseback riding, Schaffer said she was taught how to ride by her grandmother at age 3 and has since risen to the advanced riding level.
Schaffer has participated in horse showings in Ohio and Kentucky and has been riding with an Interscholastic Equestrian Association team called StoneGate in Coolville for the past six years.
The IEA is an inexpensive way for kids in grades 4-12 to have the opportunity to compete as a team and individual in equestrian competitions.
With events being outside, Schaffer was still able to participate in competitions during her senior year despite the pandemic. Schaffer said being able to ride was beneficial for her, as it was one of the few normal things during the pandemic.
“I was thankful that my sport is outside, so I never had to stop because of COVID. We were able to have a good season riding horses as a team. Now in the summer, I’ll get to show my own horse, that’s exciting,” she said. “But it’s been hard as a senior having to leave the team, especially with the crazy year that it was. This was the only normal thing I really had and now that’s over.”
Schaffer will continue to horseback ride in events while attending Ohio University in the fall, joining the university’s equestrian team.
She plans to major in special education, with the hopes of later becoming an equine-assisted therapist. Equine-assisted therapy is a type of experiential mental health treatment that involves a person in therapy interacting with horses.
“Some people with different disabilities can ride horses and it’s their therapy and it’s proven to be good. So I find it interesting,” Schaffer said. “Horses and special education are two things that I enjoy and am passionate about. So even though I know it’s not the highest paying job, it sounds really exciting and rewarding.”
The main horse that Schaffer rides is a female quarter horse thoroughbred cross named Paisley. Schaffer has also been training a female thoroughbred horse named Honey.
She has three horses at home named Skeeter, Wayne and Annie and Schaffer said those are the horses she and her mom and grandmother would use when riding together.
“It’s cool to be able to ride with my mom and grandma. It’s not something that everyone does,” Schaffer said. “I’ve been able to grow up with them and be close to them. That’s special to have that one thing in common that we like to do together.”
While at Parkersburg Catholic, Schaffer was named class president by her grade after spending the past three years as a class representative.
Some of the duties included recently helping with planning and finding a guest speaker for the upcoming senior graduation, meeting with the high school staff, student council and other classes’ representatives about upcoming school events.
In addition to being class president, Schaffer is also a member of the interact club, senior women’s club and helps with the schools’ yearbook.
Outside of school, Schaffer attends St. Margaret Mary Parish, which she altar serves and is a eucharistic minister as well. Schaffer volunteers at the local Humane Society and plans to volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club in the summer.
“I’m thankful to spend all of my years at Catholic, I don’t know anything else but being here. I’ve grown up with the Parkersburg Catholic family. It’s gonna be sad leaving,” Schaffer said. “But everyone’s been so supportive and I’m so thankful to have this as my foundation to move on to college and I’m just glad my parents found it important enough to send me here and saw the good in the Catholic education.”
Contact Tyler Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org