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Game Changers: Emma Najdzionek

Emma Najdzionek, a senior at Nichols School and an equestrian at SBS Farms, has had many accomplishments throughout her career. She is looking forward to continuing her success with the University of Mary Washington Equestrian team.

Najdzionek has been riding with the Buffalo Equestrian Center since she was about 10-years-old. Emma joined the SBS farms competitive team a little over a year ago. She said her passion for this sport developed after her family started participating in trail rides during their vacations. “When I was about 6, my family started to take a yearly vacation where we would go on trail rides. When I was around 10, my mom and I both decided we wanted to find a place where we could ride year-round. We began riding at the Buffalo Equestrian Center and immediately we were hooked.”

Emma currently competes in both the Hunter and Equitation divisions with SBS Farms. The Hunter division focuses on analyzing the movements of the horse, while Equitation concentrates on judging the rider and their ability. “Hunters is all about the horse, how the horse moves, it’s form over the jumps, and overall how pretty the horse is. Equitation is more about the rider- their form over the jump, how they plan their track, and how they control their horse.”

Furthermore, both of these divisions are subjectively judged, which she said can be frustrating at times. “Sometimes it’s a little bit difficult when you feel like you’re doing your best, but you don’t exactly place that way. But that’s why it’s so important to get into the mentality of focusing on your riding and your horse, and not just how you place.”

Najdzionek has been leasing Motion-Picture, her show horse, for almost a year now. She said she has recently been focusing on improving her relationship with “Flick,” which is an important component of success within this sport. “Lately I’ve really been working on my relationship and my partnership with my horse. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s really all about the teamwork with him. He’s shown me how much personality a horse really can have.”

Likewise, Emma said that it’s crucial for riders to polish their “flat work,” which is one of the fundamental skills of this sport. “Flat work is really important to make sure your horse is listening to you at all times. Make sure they’re bending with you, with your hand, with your leg; They’re listening to you… it’s very important to get the basics.”

During her time at SBS, Najdzionek has had many achievements, such as qualifying for both the Interscholastic Equestrian Association’s (IEA) Regional finals for the last 6 years and IEA Zone Finals for the past several years. However, she said her greatest accomplishments have lived in her personal victories. “I never imagined I would jump three feet, so just being able to do that was huge for me. I also never imagined I would compete on the ACE circuit, the top rating of horse shows. Every time I come out into the show ring, I feel like I’ve improved from our last round or our last show, and I’m so proud. On top of that, every single blue ribbon feels like our greatest accomplishment.”

Even though her time with SBS is coming to an end, her journey is far from over. Emma will be attending the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA in the fall of 2021, where she hopes to join the varsity equestrian team. She shared her enthusiasm about her future and the new relationships she will make with her teammates. “I’m looking forward to meeting new people. I’ve found some of my best friends at Buffalo Equestrian Center and SBS, so I’m really excited to see what friends I’ll make at this new barn.”

Author and Host Kelsey Childress
Photography by Vincent Berbano
Produced by George Johnson

Written by Kelsey Childress

Kelsey Childress

Kelsey is a senior Journalism, Communication, and Psychology major at Canisius College. She is also captain of the women’s swim team. She’s from Lynchburg, Virginia, but has fallen in love with the Buffalo community. She is excited to combine her passion for journalism with her love for sports to produce the “Game Changers” series.

View All Articles by Kelsey Childress
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