Twelve-year-old Jane Cook, a student at The Hockaday School in Dallas, was recently named the co-winner of the school’s 6th grade speech contest. Her speech topic was about her passion for horses and riding. Titled Riding: The Best Sport in the World, Cook weaves a tale of equine ecstasy for riders of the magical steed in her speech.
“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk. He trots the air, the Earth sings when he touches it. The basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes.” These words were so cleverly crafted by Shakespeare for Act III of his play; Henry V. Shakespeare is speaking of the uniqueness and the magic of the bond between equine and human. The perspective atop a horse is unlike any other, one that few people have the joy of experiencing. Hours of moving to the horse’s rhythm, flying over jumps and fears brings new strength, and a new outlook on the world. Horseback gives back, and teaches responsibility, provides strength, and creates a strong connection to nature,” Cook tells her listeners with obvious passion for her topic.
The local all-girls school holds the speech competition every other year and allows each student to select their own subject, and then write their speech and compete for top honors against others in their grade. Two girls from each grade are then declared the winners after a go-round and semi-finals round of competition. The winners from each grade delivered their speeches to an enthusiastic audience of middle school students, educators and parents on Friday, April 20th.
“I decided to write about riding for my speech because it is something I am passionate about, and that made it really easy to write and deliver,” says Cook. “I think my speech showed others that riding is not some fancy impossible thing that you only see in movies or it is just galloping around with a rope in a cowboy hat. I think my speech really connects to things you do today and impacts people more than just talking about things that don’t matter to them.”
Cook currently rides at BuckBranch Farm located at the southern edge of Dallas County in Wilmer, in the barn of Becky Brown School of Horsemanship. “I compete as often as I can. I love riding for fun but the thrill of a show excites me every time,” says Cook. “I generally participate in show jumping and dressage classes.”
Cook’s horse is named Model Te Zeus and is mentioned throughout her speech. Her family purchased the fifteen-year-old chestnut gelding in July of 2011. “He is a sweet, loving Appendix Quarter Horse,” says Cook. “I love to ride because I love the feeling of being connected with a powerful animal in a way that you can’t imagine. Learning how to give commands and having the horse respond is magical. The fact that I guide a 1,000 pound animal over a 3’ jump takes my breath away.”
This young rider (and writer) reminds equine lovers why riding truly is the best sport in her speech. “In addition to strengthening my bond with my horse, riding strengthens me physically and mentally. Working my legs by applying pressure to the side of the horse and moving up and down with the rhythm of his trot strengthens my calves. Balancing in the saddle hardens my core. Keeping taut reins between the horse’s mouth and my hand requires strong upper arms and back. Hurdling over obstacles on horseback can help with overcoming fears,” she confides. “I had a miniscule amount of confidence when I started riding with Becky Brown and after four years, I will do almost anything on horseback, and I have become more confident on the ground as well. It is by constantly testing my own limits that I discover how much I can really do, and that has given me a confidence boost. Strength is important in riding, but not always in the ways you would think.”
Formerly a student at St. John’s Episcopal School, Cook has attended Hockaday for two years. She is a writer for her school newspaper, Newsway. Cook recently competed in the Poetry Society of Texas 2012 Contest and won first place in her division with her poem, Unnoticed. This talented young equestrian is the daughter of Tom and Sherri Cook of Dallas.
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