How the Equestrian Team Opened Up a New World to Me
After accepting enrollment at Arcadia, I started looking through the website in search of extracurricular activities. On KnightLife, I came across the Equestrian Team and, for some reason, I felt like I needed to be a part of it.
In high school, I was captain of the Dance Team. Coming to college, I stopped dancing entirely and something was definitely missing from my life. I went to the activities fair and met the captains of the equestrian team my freshman year and they did an excellent job convincing me to join the team. They talked about their own experiences with horses and how everyone goes to practice and shows together, kind of like a family. This type of community sounded perfect to me and all of their stories were very inspiring.
So, in my freshman year of college, having never ridden a horse — besides once around a ring at a circus when I was 6 years old and guided by a professional — I joined the team. Before my first lesson I was a little nervous, so I watched some YouTube videos about the basics of riding and keeping the horse between you and the ground. Something from those videos must have made sense to me because even though I didn’t do too much at my first lesson, I loved it. Being with the horses and having the support of the team made riding really easy, even though it was completely new to me. I also signed up for every show I could make that semester before I went abroad with FYSAE in the spring. I actually ended up showing after my first two lessons.
I can definitely say that it was one of the best decisions of my college career thus far. The team has about 10-15 girls on it and everyone is very welcoming. The coaches are also amazing with their support and drive to help you get better every week. I joined as an English rider (think the Olympics or England — advanced riders are jumping their horses through a course; I’m not quite there yet, so I stay on the ground) and I am able to ride once a week. We have shows on random weekends throughout the year at schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. Even though sometimes we have to get up really early, everyone competing together, for fun or for major competition, is a great disconnect from Arcadia itself. We also have a traditional Wawa stop on the way for breakfast and getting weird looks for our riding outfits makes everything better somehow.
One of the favorite parts of being on the team is getting to go to the barn every week. It is about 30 minutes north off a backroad in Hilltown. For me, the drive there is usually pretty easy and I get to blast music in my car. And for those days where everyone else on the road is making me really angry because they can’t drive, I know at the end of my journey I will get to the barn where I will be able to spend uninterrupted time with animals.
The culture at the barn is something that I didn’t know I was missing. I love the time I get to spend grooming and tacking up the horses (putting their saddles on and getting them ready to ride). And then, when all of that is done, I get quite the workout around the ring. Some experienced riders are really able to make riding look easy. To some people it may seem like it doesn’t take that much effort at all. The truth is, riding a horse is just as much a sport and act of exercise as any other official sport on campus is. It takes discipline, time, and practice to get really good just like any official sport.
I think the biggest takeaway from this is that even if you have never done something, it never hurts to try. Having a designated place to get off campus and relax around animals is one of the best parts of my week. Spending time with all of the horses and really getting to know them creates a special bond that has nothing to do with all of the craziness that happens on campus and my day-to-day life. I recommend the equestrian team to anyone. And if horses really aren’t your thing, find a way to step outside of your comfort zone and try something you have always wanted to do. You might just discover what you’ve been missing.