After graduating from North Tahoe High School in the spring with a GPA that exceeds perfection, Riley Chador will leave her mountain home to embark on the next phase of her life at Baylor University.
That doesn't mean she has to leave behind her recreational passion, however. In fact, her love for horses and competition are what helped her land a scholarship at the Division I college.
On Nov. 16, Chador signed her National Letter of Intent to ride for the Baylor University women's equestrian team.
"It was very exciting," said Chador, who received a scholarship worth 40 percent of her tuition - 20 percent athletic and 20 percent academic.
"We had talked about it a little bit (pursuing equestrian in college), and I love it and that's what I want to do, so it seemed like a good solution. And in college you get to do it on a team, which is a little bit different."
Chador, a three-sport athlete who's participated in soccer, Nordic skiing, softball and cross-country during her tenure at North Tahoe, said she began riding horses around the age of 5. She's been competing for six years, showing horses all over the country and earning top finishes.
She served as president of the Truckee Donner Junior Horsemen in 2010-2011 and has worked summers at the Alpine Meadows Stable the past six years. She said she enjoys the challenges of working with a horse as a two-member team.
"I like the fact that you're working together, and you have to take into account that they have a brain and they don't always want to do the same thing that you want them to do," Chador said. "So it's really a lot of teamwork, even though it's an individual sport."
Equestrian was classified as an NCAA emerging sport in 1998, when there were only six participating colleges, according to the National Collegiate Equestrian Association. Now, Baylor, located in Waco, Texas, is one of 23 colleges across the country to offer equestrian as a varsity sport. And those numbers are growing.
The collegiate format is a head-to-head, where a rider from each team competes on the same horse. The rider who earns the highest score on that particular horse wins the point for her respective team. The horse-rider matchup is determined by a random draw.
Chador visited the Baylor campus this past summer and again about a month ago, which allowed her the opportunity to meet her coach and teammates and learn more about the program.
"I love it," she said of the college. "The campus is amazing and everyone is super nice."
Chador has a current GPA of 4.2, and will graduate as a valedictorian in June if maintained, said North Tahoe principal Joanna Mitchell. The four-year honor roll student will have completed six years worth of science classes in a four-year span. She's leaning toward majoring in medical humanities at Baylor.