International rider

Baton Rouge native heads to France for mounted competition

Competing in an equestrian sport little known in this area has forced Kendell Richter to do a lot of traveling. Soon, it will take her even farther.

Richter, 22, an LSU student and lifelong Baton Rougean, will represent the United States in the 2013 La Nocturne Internationale Mounted Games June 15-16 in St. Sauvant, France. She said she is the only rider from the South on the team, and the first from Louisiana selected.

Mounted games are unlike riding events like dressage and show jumping. They’re more like relay races. Teams of four riders race to complete a variety of skills as quickly as possible — picking up rings from poles with wooden swords, bursting balloons from horseback and putting flags into cones on the ground, to name a few. There are more than 25 different races and some involve dismounting and remounting while the horse is in motion.

“The challenge to perform high-speed skills, I really enjoy that, and my pony loves it, too,” Richter said.

Richter’s pony, a 24-year-old Chincoteague pony named Chino, won’t be making the trip overseas, but he has put in his share of miles, both in the arena and in the trailer to get there.

“I practice by myself. Tennessee is our closest competition that we go to,” said Richter, who competed in Kentucky last weekend. “That’s pretty much where all my shows are, and I have to travel 14, 15 hours to get to all of them.”

Her mother, P.K. Richter, participated in Arabian horse shows before she began having children. When her first daughter was born with a disability, she got involved in teaching therapeutic riding.

“My oldest daughter would ride, and I would put Kendell on a horse and make her ride around,” she said. “Then, she just took off with it. Originally, she didn’t like it. Now, she lives and breathes horses. It’s phenomenal.

“When we were first introduced to mounted games, Kendell had gotten to the age where she was using Chino for show jumping and doing a lot of jumping stuff. With that you have to be a certain height in order for it to be safe for the horse and rider to get over the jumps. She was getting too tall for him. Then we heard about this mounted games within the United States Pony Club. I thought let’s just try it, because it’s perfect to have a pony for that.”

That was in 2003. Kendell Richter competed in mounted games through the U.S. Pony Club from 2004-’08, after which she was too old and began going to U.S. Mounted Games Association events.

Among Richter’s favorite events are the bottle race, in which riders must place a bottle on the top of a barrel, then remove one while at a full gallop; the sock race, which involves dismounting to pick a balled-up sock out of a basket, then remounting and putting it in another basket from horseback; and popping balloons while riding by with a sharp stick.

Mounted games are not included in Olympic equestrian events, though there are efforts to change that, Richter said.

“The atmosphere is really nice,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of friends over the entire country. I just love being able to go compete with them. I love it a lot.”