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Zoe Powell and Castle clear the hurdles. At the age of 10, Zoe decided she wanted to be a professional equestrian and compete in the Olympics. She's on her way.

DeLand High School student Zoe Powell and her dark brown stallion Castle are moving up in the equestrian world. Currently in the ninth grade, Zoe is juggling adjusting to high school as well as managing her riding career.

Her goals are to compete in the Olympics and to become a professional equestrian — a decision she made at the age of 10, about four years ago.

With a grand championship in her jumper class this summer, Zoe has moved up in her division to a low-junior-amateur ranking in the discipline Show Jumping, English-style. She hopes to move to medium-junior level in an upcoming competition.

“Congratulations Zoe, for having conquered so much in such a short period of time,” Cavalia Stables posted on its social media in a report about Zoe’s success.

There is no longer room in her schedule for riding for fun.

Zoe attends school by day, and then it’s all about riding.

“I ride my two horses, take care of them and everything. But then I drive back home at about 8, 9 o’clock, and then I eat dinner, do my homework, go to bed, and repeat the next day,” she said.

Zoe has been riding for about eight years, but it has not always been an easy ride. Starting off at the age of 6, Zoe was not sure what horses were, and was very unenthusiastic about riding them.

 “I was nervous. I didn’t really want to ride. But then once I started, like, connecting with the horses, I guess, and actually riding, grooming them, then I was like, ‘Wow I love this.’ So, I just kept going from there, and I kept progressing,” Zoe said.

Zoe is hardly alone in her love for riding. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture, the state is home to more than 385,000 horses, and the equine industry, including the tourism it generates, has a positive annual impact of $11.7 billion statewide.

The systems in place for high-school students make it possible for Zoe to manage both school and her budding equestrian career. 

“I go to school for the first four periods, and then I go home after fourth period, right before lunch, and I do the rest of my classes online. So, I have time for riding,” Zoe said. 

The busy schedule has limited Zoe in taking part in extracurricular activities, but that is not a concern for her.

“I just do, like, my main math, science, history and English, and then my electives are all online. And then I just focus on my horseback riding,” she said. 

She’s encouraged by her progress in eight years.

“I am obviously not like a professional or extremely high level, but I am pretty high level. As in the height that I jump, because there’s many different disciplines like English and Western and then there’s different categories inside those different disciplines,” Zoe said.

Castle is an important member of the team. Taking care of her partner before and after training is one of Zoe’s most important duties, if not the most important thing. For example, sore muscles need to be iced. 

“For aftercare, it’s really important because it’s like humans. So, for horses, there’s literally horse boots that go in the freezer, and then when you take it out you wrap it around their legs. It’s like a little ice wrap, and I do that after I jump all the time,” Zoe said. 

Zoe has ridden many horses, but none that she connected with like Castle.

“I have been moving up with Castle very fast. He is an awesome horse, and I feel like we definitely have some type of connection. I don’t know, I just, I love that horse,” Zoe said.

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