October 12, 2009 —
Three years ago, two students created a club sport that regularly competes with about ten schools in Michigan and one in Canada. Do you know which sport this is?
Here’s another hint: the 20-person team holds regular practices to learn to control animals weighing ten times as much as them.
Give up? It’s the equestrian team.
About four times throughout the fall semester, the equestrian team travels around Michigan to compete with schools such Western, Michigan, Michigan State, Oakland and Grand Valley (who they beat last year).
There are two different categories for competitions. These categories are called stock seat and hunt seat.
If a person rides a stock seat, they do Western style horseback riding. In this style, riders are expected to show a well-controlled position while doing a walk, trot and a canter. In this seat, the rider must have excellent form and position.
“It might look like [the rider] is just sitting there, but they’re giving the horse subtle cues,” communications major Courtney Trares said.
“It’s really difficult, because if you shift your weight even an inch forward or an inch back, the horse responds to it,” nursing freshman Kara Daniels said.
“During competitions, you have to be able to adjust to different horses, while at the same time, keeping your technique,” Trares said.
On the other hand, if they ride hunt seat, they do English jumper style horseback riding. Often called the forward seat, English riders dress in the attire typically found at horse shows. Likewise, the horse is clean-cut and well presented. During competitions, Hunt seat riders are judged on not only form, but also how well they complete a pre-determined course of jumps and turns.
“The hardest part is knowing how to handle your horse when you come up to a jump, and your horse just stops,” occupational therapy senior and hunt seat rider Anna Sandelich said.
“Sometimes they’re stubborn and refuse to do what you tell them to. It’s hard figuring out how to persuade them to do something they just don’t want to do,” accounting senior Jessica Kovl said. Last year, Kovl’s individual score from competition qualified her for nationals.
As of now, the team agrees that as a whole, they are “middle of the pack” when it comes to competing, because some new members on the team have little or no experience.
According to Sandelich, riders have never even seen the horse they will ride for competition, and don’t even know which one it will be until they draw a horse’s name from a bucket.
“You can practice all you want, and look really great with your horse, but that doesn’t mean anything when you get to competition. You have to adjust to different horses, and get inside the mind of a thousand pound animal and learn to control it,” Sandelich said.