Equine soccer comes to Fort Atkinson Print
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014 -- 12:00 AM
Equine Soccer, Fort Atkinson

St. Joseph School in Fort Atkinson Principal Kari Homb and her horse Jack lead the way to a goal attempt on the soccer field outside the school during an equine soccer presentation. Other horses that participated are part of America's Equine Soccer League (AESL), a group based out of Merrill, Wis.

To view or purchase photos, go to madisoncatholicherald.smugmug.com (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

FORT ATKINSON -- For students at St. Joseph School in Fort Atkinson, it’s not unusual to look outside and see a soccer game taking place on the field next to the school.

Much to their delight, some new faces visited them to play a game on a recent Monday morning -- their names were Jack, Tex, Bandit, and Prince. The game was equine soccer. Yes, their four new friends were horses.

The idea for the equine soccer presentation was Principal Kari Homb's -- herself a rider with friends involved with America's Equine Soccer League (AESL).

AESL was started in Merrill, Wis, and aims to promote horsemanship, along with socializing for the horses and their riders.

Every year as principal of "St. Joe's," Homb said she does something "unique for the kids" -- from showing up her first day as principal with her horse, Jack, or dying her hair maroon and getting duct taped to the wall as part of fundraisers.

It’s all to "see me in a different light . . . to experience something they’ve probably never seen before," said Homb. "St. Joe's is an awesome school, awesome parish, and I just want people to know about it . . . and the kids always say 'what's she going to do next?'"

It's gametime

In equine soccer, the riders guide their horses on the field to move or kick an oversized soccer ball across the field to a goal.

Homb's horse Jack was one of the participants in the match. He was the crowd favorite and superstar, scoring most of the goals. Every time Jack neared a goal, the students cheered loudly for their principal and her horse.

Some St. Joseph students, most of them experienced with horses, helped out with putting the ball back into play if it rolled out of bounds.

During "halftime" of the match, Principal Homb, along with AESL participant Laurie Gehrig -- and her horse Tex -- answered some of the students' questions.

"[Equine soccer is] good for beginners all the way to seasoned horse people . . . not much fast movement involved, which makes it good for kids and older riders too," said Gehrig.

The second half got underway with the students still rooting for Homb and Jack. Someone even started the wave to keep the crowd energy high.

The game ended with a 3 to 2 win for Jack's team, and the horses with their riders trotted over to the students to answer more of their questions.

More about equine soccer

Gehrig hosts AESL events at her home in Wausau. "It's to keep people on their horses throughout the winter," she said.

AESL is growing in the Wausau area and was even featured on NBC's Today show as part of a "Fact or Fiction" story segment with Natalie Morales.

"I think it's a cool thing to broaden people's perspective," said Gehrig. "There's a lot of things out there that you never knew existed, so opening your eyes to that, whether it's horses or people or anything."

Homb is hoping AESL events can start up in the Fort Atkinson area.

"It's a great way to show horsemanship, and it shows how amazing horses are, how strong they are, and how willing they are to kind of do something new and unique," Homb said.

For more information on AESL, visit www.equinesoccer.org


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