Margot Epstein of Clayton High School
Margot Epstein knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles. The Clayton High senior is legally blind, but visual impairment has not stopped her from excelling academically or running cross country. She’s also an accomplished equestrian, ranking third in state for her division and having qualified for the national junior hunter finals this past summer.
Where did your interest in horseback riding come from?
I’ve always liked horses in general, but I became interested in riding after visiting my grandparents in the Berkshires. We planned to go skiing, but there was no snow on the mountain, so we had to find something else to do. Luckily, my grandparents knew of a horse barn, and they took me there to ride. That’s when I became hooked.
What do you enjoy about riding and competing?
I really like the bond I have with my horse, even when just brushing them or giving them treats. In competition, I do hunter jumping, which is judged on how elegant you are rather than speed. I enjoy that it’s slower and at a more consistent pace. Visually, it’s a better sport for me, and sometimes, I just enjoy looking fancy on my horse.
Have you faced any challenges while riding?
I’ve always taken lessons with people who know about my visual impairment, but when I started competing, we didn’t broadcast it because we didn’t want people to doubt my ability. I do sometimes have difficulty seeing horses of certain colors in specific light—they can blend in with the arena. The angles of jumps can throw me off, and often, courses will be staged to reflect the natural environment with flowers and other greenery, which can make the jumps hard to distinguish. I spend a lot of time studying courses to ensure I know them.
You also run cross country.
I really enjoy getting to be part of a team. That’s not something I really experience in riding. With running, you’re all there together and having a good time. I also like that your progress is more tangible. In riding, it can take years to realize you’ve improved, but in cross country, you can see your times going down and feel your endurance increasing.
Is there anything you’re looking forward to in your senior year?
I’m looking forward to graduating, of course. There’s a day where we’ll get to visit the elementary school. I’ve been in Clayton for all of my educational career, so I’m looking forward to being able to look back and see how much I’ve grown and learned. I’m just excited to take it all in.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I really like baking. I also enjoy watching movies with my friends and doing things outdoors. I don’t get to do it often, but I like to hike. I also love spending time with my dog.