Naomi Jacobsen, a junior at Museum High School, has been around horses for as long as she can remember.

“I was maybe four years old,” she said. “I can’t exactly remember but from a young age I was at my aunt and uncle’s, helping out with the horses and doing what needed to be done.”

A little more than a decade later, Naomi’s can-do attitude saw her first start an equestrian team of one at Museum High as a sophomore, and then this year, as a junior, won the 2022 Michigan Interscholastic Horsemanship Association Sportsmanship (MIHA) Award for District 19.

MIHA governs and runs junior high and high school equestrian team events in Michigan and was established in 1976.  Although Naomi trained this season with Caledonia’s renowned equestrian team, at MIHA events she represented Museum High, and she did it well.

In honoring her and Museum High with the Sportsmanship Award, MIHA District 19 coordinator Kate Higley noted her willingness to go above and beyond in helping others, in cleaning up at meets, encouraging her fellow competitors and generally in doing whatever needed to be done.

Naomi’s coach and father Jeff Jacobsen helped his daughter start the equestrian program at Museum High, and he noted that Naomi’s positive attitude and work ethic came despite most meets for her encompassing a 10-12 hour day.

MIHA meets generally would include numerous different events that would score points for teams in the meet – everything from Western pleasure to equitation over fences to flag race.

As a team of one, Naomi often entered as many as 10 events, meaning she’d generally arrive at most meets around 7 am and not leave until 5 or 6 pm.

And she did it all this year despite a hip injury serious enough to warrant surgery in November 2022, after the season was done.

“I was really proud of her all season long,” Jeff Jacobsen said. “And the Sportsmanship Award was a great way to end the season.”

Naomi agreed.

“When they were reading off what they used to judge the Sportsmanship award, I didn’t recognize myself,” she said. “But then I started to realize, ‘Hey, they’re talking about me.’ It was a surprise but definitely a nice surprise.”

Both Jeff and Naomi said the high school equestrian world in Michigan made it easy to want to give back.

“I think one thing that we thought was really interesting is that it is a very close, tight-knit community, but it works so well together,” said Jeff Jacobsen. “The community itself, they want to see the kids succeed. If we forgot something for a meet, we’d have parents from other schools, and they’d come back from their trailer, walk down to meet you and have what you need.”

Both Jacobsens also paid tribute to Higley who they said was instrumental in helping them start a team, filling out the right paperwork, getting them connected to others in the district and staying at their side as they navigated the world of an equestrian team.

And now, Naomi’s love for all things equestrian not only got her high school team started and netted her the 2022 Sportsmanship Award, but it also is influencing her future career path.

She is dually enrolled at Ferris State as part of the Kent Career Tech Center criminal justice program and already is planning to merge her academic and athletic pursuits with a career in the mounted police.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” she said with a smile.