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For at least one member of Virginia Tech equestrian team, love of horses goes far beyond ring

Published On: Jun 18 2013 02:52:47 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 18 2013 07:37:52 PM EDT
For at least one member of Virginia Tech equestrian team, love of horses goes far beyond ring
SALEM, Va. -

If you make it to the Roanoke Valley Horse Show, chances are you'll see Virginia Tech's equestrian team.

For one team member, horses are a labor of love that extends well beyond the horse ring.

Kayleigh Burke has been riding horses her whole life. As a rising junior at Virginia Tech she continues to devote as much time to that hobby as possible, which is what has brought her here to the Roanoke Valley Horse Show.

Burke is here with the Virginia Tech Equestrian Team to compete aboard Taz, her 1,200-pound companion. Together, they received Reserve Champion honors in the Shenandoah Hunters Class on Tuesday morning.

“I got my first pony when I was five and my twin brother and I used to ride around,” said Burke, a junior at Virginia Tech. “My mom used to show competitively and once I got my pony I started to do little stuff like the lean line, she used to lead me around. After that I did the bigger shows and I did a couple a shows when I was younger with a couple of horses."

Showing horses can get expensive, which has led to an interesting side job for Burke and her teammates, who have taken up braiding the horses' manes before their big moment in the ring.

"It’s really important they have to look nice, they have to look tight and they have to just look presentable I guess is the way to look at it,” Burke said. “It just needs to be neat and it makes the horse just, I guess look done-up. Like you do your hair to go out, you do their mane, you do their tail. It definitely can mean the difference between first and second place sometimes."

When she’s not in the ring, Kayleigh still stays plenty busy as president of an organization called Second Chance, which is just getting off the ground.

"It’s basically organization that helps neglected and abused horses in the area,” Burke said. “We try to give them a second chance. We have been raising a lot of money so we can board a horse, we talked to a couple of barns in the area. The biggest thing is we are trying to raise this money so we can raise one or foster one so they can be adopted."

Burke is a communications major and would like to enter the broadcast journalism field upon graduation, but horses will never be too far away.