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Nov. 26, 2008

Story by Hannah Hutchinson, South Carolina Media Relations

There’s one girl on the University of South Carolina equestrian team who’s been in the saddle her whole life. Senior Katie Grossnickle’s mother showed horses as a child and hoped that her children would share her passion. Unfortunately, Katie’s two older brothers were not takers.

“I came along and my mother was determined I was going to like horses, and I did,” Grossnickle said. “I started riding with her when I was 18 months old, and when I was six I did my first show.”

As a junior rider – someone under the age of 18 who has not qualified in any professional events – she showed on the American Quarter Horse Association circuit. In 2005, she qualified as a finalist at their Youth World Show and continually ribboned at Quarter Horse Congress – the largest AQHA show in the world – where she also picked up a western championship.

With many points under her belt, Grossnickle had many options when it came time to find a varsity equestrian program. She chose South Carolina and started riding for the team in the Western horsemanship division in the spring of 2006.

“The coaches (at South Carolina) came to watch me ride at a couple of shows and I came here on one of my official visits,” Grossnickle said.” I decided that I really liked the school and they offered me a scholarship.”

At Carolina, she practices twice a week with her coaches and other Western riders, and again once with the entire team. Although riding takes up most of her free time, Grossnickle participates in the NCAA CHAMPS Life Skill community service program and has been a member of the SEC Spring Academic Honor Roll. Majoring in retailing, Grossnickle already has post-graduation plans.

“My parents own a winery in Michigan, and as of right now I’m planning on going up there and helping run the business,” Grossnickle said. “I definitely want to keep my amateur card and continue showing. I think horses will always be a part of my life.”

Until then, Grossnickle will help lead a Gamecock team as they prepare for the spring season with a January 24 competition at UT-Martin. And if Grossnickle continues to ride like she has been in her career, the Gamecocks could possibly be looking at a third national championship in five years.