Athlete of the Issue: Grace Towle


By Claire Donahue and Claire Donahue

In elementary school junior Grace Towle was a self-described “crazy, horse-obsessed girl” collecting tiny horse figurines and dressing in horse-patterned dresses. Today, Towle is an equestrian who rides four times a week at Sonoma Stables in Petaluma.

“Going there usually entails me getting the horse ready, cleaning all the tack, the saddle and the bridal, cleaning the horse, making sure [it’s] healthy, exercising it…then dealing with all the stuff to clean it up,” she said.

Towle rides English style, as opposed to Western. “[An English saddle] doesn’t have the big horn in front like western.” she said.

Her event of choice is equitation. “You go in, go over the jumps as fast as possible, and you get marked down based on how well you do it. At the end you see how many people are in the class and you see all the scores and then whoever gets the highest score wins,” she said.

Competing with the horse requires learning about it too. “You definitely have a bond with your horse,” Towle said. “You get used to riding your horse and you get used to all the different things that your horse does, all their little naughty tricks.”

On top of practices, Towle competes four or five times each year in Northern California. Unlike a typical sporting event, shows consist of various events in different arenas. “At a show you have a bunch of different arenas or rings that you ride in,” Towle said.

Although competing is fun, it takes a huge financial toll. “Especially when you get to the higher levels, a lot has to do with how much you can afford,” Towle said. “You get a lot of rich snobby people in this sport, who just buy the most expensive horse that they can and win in everything because they have this really nice horse that can do everything for them. It gets a little frustrating, but you get used to it.”

Horse riding has played a huge part in her middle and high school life, dictating not only her afternoons, but also her friendships. “All of my good friends today are people I rode with when I was little,” she said. Towle also has no plans to stop riding. “They have riding programs in college…I’ll probably go where there’s a riding community so I can work at a stable and hopefully continue to get better.”