The Equestrian Team at Ohio Wesleyan is not only a club for veteran riders to refine their skills, but it is also a unique opportunity for novice riders to learn horseback riding.
The Equestrian Team consists of 14 members with a mix of experience, according to senior Kassel Galaty, president of the Western Equestrian Team.
The team practices once a week, for a total of 10 training sessions per semester at Dare Equestrian Center in Hilliard, Ohio, according to senior Hairong Jiang.
The team’s coach, Linda Dare, owns the barn and provides horses for members to ride. Dare works around each student’s schedule, so the team practices at different times a week, said senior Kaitlin Tiefenthal, president of the Eastern Equestrian Team.
“Every rider learns so much from (Dare),” Tiefenthal said. “We have students that have never even touched a horse on our team, to people that have been riding even longer than me.”
Tiefenthal said she has been horseback riding since she went to a summer camp at age ten.
She said the Equestrian Team is not like most teams, because the whole team does not meet as one very often. She said she takes the opportunity to connect with her horses.
“Once a week I am able to get away from campus and just focus on horses for a bit,” Tiefenthal said.
Jiang said she joined the Equestrian Team in the spring of her sophomore year. She said she had always been interested in horses but did not have the chance to learn how to ride horses until joining the team.
Jiang said horseback riding has been a good tool for her to relax.
“For me, being on the Equestrian Team is more of a relaxation after all the college work,” Jiang said. “I enjoy riding, and I’m really happy that I had the chance to learn how to ride.”
Freshman Caitlin Bobb said the Equestrian Team competes in various Intercollegiate Horse Show Association events throughout the year. However, there are no more competitions scheduled for this semester, Bobb said.
Bobb said she has been involved with horses all her life. She said she has trained horses, taught horseback riding lessons and competed in horse shows since she was a kid.
“Possibly the most rewarding thing besides training horses would be teaching lessons and working in therapeutic riding camps,” Bobb said. “It is definitely rewarding and inspiring to see how each student progresses.”
Currently, the Equestrian Team is not a varsity sport. However, Bobb said the team is just as good as other colleges who have varsity equestrian teams.
Bobb said the team would benefit from becoming a varsity sport, but funding makes it difficult because it limits the amount of competitions the team can participate in. She also said some do not believe equestrian is not a true sport.
“It is a common misconception that equestrian sports do not require hard work and that they aren’t even sports at all,” Bobb said. “However, guiding a 1000 pound animal through a jump course, or through a Western pattern is no easy task and should be considered a serious varsity sport.”
Sophomore Megan Buys said that because the Equestrian Team is not a varsity sport, there is not as much pressure to perform. This gives novice riders a better chance to learn how to ride, she said.
Senior Lauren Zupsic said people have the choice in the club to participate in competitions or just ride for enjoyment.
“I think it works well not being varsity,” Zupsic said. “It allows more people to join for whatever reason they want.”