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Emma Mutnansky to become 1st known Lumberjack to compete in NCAA equestrian

Jan. 19—For many people, horsing around connotes an unserious undertaking of some sort. That's certainly not the case for Bemidji High School senior Emma Mutnansky.

Mutnansky is so dedicated, in fact, that she has become the first known Lumberjack senior to pursue equestrian competition on a collegiate scholarship. She made it official by signing with Minnesota Crookston on Tuesday at BHS.

Mutnansky has been riding horses since she was 6 years old and has been showing on the American Quarter Horse Association circuit for several years. She was named a 2022 Youth AQHA Champion, an award given to rider/horse combinations who compile over 50 points within a single show year. Only 18 youth competitors took home the 2022 champion award.

Signing with the Golden Eagles gives Mutnansky an opportunity to compete with and be around horses while studying in UMC's equine science program.

"I'm going for equine science, and then I want to get certified in equine massage therapy," Mutnansky. "So it'll still be a job with horses (after I graduate)."

At Minnesota Crookston, equestrian athletes can compete in multiple disciplines. There are competitions in Western and Jumping Seat under the NCAA banner, as well as Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association events. Mutnansky plans to compete in horsemanship, which she describes as "a pattern that you do" with the horse.

"How that works is you get on a horse, and you have a couple of minutes to ride it and figure it out," Mutnansky explained. "Then you go into your pattern, and then another person rides the same horse. So then they judge who rode the horse better."

Equestrian is a sport that requires a lot of sacrifice. Competitions are expensive to attend for high school students and often require long travel days. Plus, Mutnansky said she may have to sell her main show horse, Impulsive I Will Be, to fund her collegiate aspirations.

Competing with the Golden Eagles gives Mutnansky the opportunity to chase her passion while also setting her up for a viable future career within the field.

"I work every day after school to help afford my horse, and shows are a lot of money," she added. "Especially the gas mileage to go to them, because there aren't very many shows in Minnesota."

She noted that most of the shows she's participated in are out of state, with her traveling as far as Ohio to compete.

"There's not really much money to win in showing quarter horses as there is in other things you can do in equestrian that you can make more money," she explained. "So I don't really make that much money off of doing it. It's more like you show and pay and don't make it back. But it's fun to do well and then improve with your horse."

Mutnansky has accomplished a lot in her career already. She won the state championship in Showmanship at the Minnesota 4-H State Horse Show on Sept. 15-18 and has competed at several AQHA events across the country.

As she readies for the next step in her journey, she's secure in the decision she's made and the doors it will open for her moving forward.

"It's good that I figured out what I'm doing," she left off. "I feel better about that because I didn't (know before). Everyone was asking, 'What are you doing after high school?' (I'd say), 'I don't know.' But it's good that I figured it out now. ... It's nice to know what I'm doing after high school. This is a good way to keep continuing riding, which is what I love doing."