The ride continues for Anderson

Ottumwa High School senior Lily Anderson (second from right) signs her national letter of intent to ride equestrian at Southern Methodist University on Thursday at the OHS activities office. Anderson is joined by her father, Kurt (second from left) and mother, Carol (far left) as well as sister and trainer Hannah Lind (far right).

OTTUMWA — There were several athletes around the country that put pen to paper signing national letter of intents this week.

Not many, however, were signing the type of letter that Ottumwa High School senior Lily Anderson signed on Thursday. Anderson will be competing on the collegiate level next year at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

It won't be with a basketball on the hardwood. It will be with her horse on the equestrian field, allowing Anderson four more years in a sport she's loved her entire life.

"It's something I got into from a young age and I've never wanted to stop doing," Anderson said. "I'm so excited to get to compete for at least the next four years. I'd like to keep it as a hobby even after college. I'd compete in equestrian all the time if I could. 

"I've been pushing her as much as she's wanted to be pushed over the years. I've been her biggest fan. I'm so excited for this," Heather Lind, Anderson's sister and trainer, added. "I've got a picture of Lily when she about 4 years old on my horse."

It wasn't just a fun photo taken of Anderson at the age of 4. The Ottumwa senior, known to most Bulldog fans for her success on the hardwood with the OHS girls basketball team, started lead line class at around the same time.

Now, at the age of 17, Anderson has taken her passion for the sport of equestrian all over the country to compete in Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio and Nevada just to name a few states over the years. Anderson chose SMU over other offers from TCU, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State University.

For Anderson, it's been a labor of love spurred on by the relationship developed by working with her horse to achieve success.

"I like that you have to work with another animal. You can't talk to them and they can't talk to you," Anderson said. "You have to use your body to communicate. You have to be strong enough in your legs and use hand cues to work with a 1,200-pound animal that has no idea what you want to do."

While she's been winning trophies, ribbons and prizes competing in equestrian, Anderson has also put together one of the top four-year runs as member of the Ottumwa girls basketball team. After averaging 1.7 points and 1.3 rebounds a game as a freshman, Anderson has grabbed a team-leading 165 rebounds in each of the past two winning seasons for the Bulldogs and led OHS with 10.5 points per game as a junior last season.

Part of her success on the hardwood can be attributed to the successful skills she has developed competing in the sport of equestrian.

"You definitely learn about patience when you work with an animal like that," Anderson said. "Your horse will always have a personality of its own, so learning that from horses and learning how to communicate has definitely helped me have patience on the court communicating with my teammates."

Endurance is also a key to having success both on the basketball floor and on a horse in the sport of equestrian. Anderson's typical day competing in the sport can last for hours in competitions that go on for multiple days.

"She may have to get up at 2:30 in the morning and ride for an hour and a half as their practice time before a particular show," said Anderson's mother, Carol. "It's exhausting. It's grueling and it's not just getting up there and sitting. The horses are a lot of work. The trainers hardly get any sleep.

"I'll usually get up for a normal competition at around 5 or 6 a.m. I usually won't get to bed until 11 p.m.," Anderson said.

For Anderson, Thursday's signing is just one way in which she will be paying for four years of college at SMU. Anderson's work in the classroom, in which she currently carries a 4.0 GPA, has led a very exciting educational future as Anderson prepares to compete in equestrian and possibly pursue a biology-related degree at the Dallas-based school.

"She's getting a lot of her education paid for. It's almost become a full ride for her at this point," Carol Anderson said. "It's very exciting. She worked hard for this. It's a very exciting day. We're a very proud family."

Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @CourierScott.


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