Equestrian: A competitive, unique and year-round sport


In a realm of such a unique sport, the equestrian team has the same aspects as that of any collegiate sport. This includes multiple physical and riding practices a week and hard-earned appearances at competitions. However, the team also has elements that are not found in other sports. 

One such instance of uniqueness, according to senior equestrian and biochemistry major Jessica Taylor, is that the riders don’t know what horse they will be riding when they go to competition. In fact, the team doesn’t even train with the same horses every time in practice.

“We often only ride one horse, so a bond develops between horse and rider,” Taylor said. “On the team, we ride an unknown horse when we compete and practice on different horses everyday, so you have to be a very adaptable rider. It’s like driving 20 different types of cars, but they all have different steering, acceleration and braking.”

The equestrian team acts like any other sport; the team practices several times a week, works out, does community service and has study tables. According to sophomore equestrian and political science pre-law major Alissa Greenwald, the nature of the sport is also competitive.

“Like any sport, having natural ability is nice, but hard work and proper training are really important factors,” Greenwald said. “It takes years for even naturally-gifted riders to get to the level that we compete at.”

Taylor believes riders must practice the sport before the collegiate level in order to compete at their level.

“This is just like basketball or baseball or football where it takes years of practice and experience to excel,” Taylor said. “It is much different than those sports because we have a ball or partner who has a mind of its own and variable cooperation in practice and competitions. It’s just like in baseball where the pitcher reads the catcher’s signs, but with a horse, each one is different, has different cues and we don’t speak the same language. Not anybody off the street can do this.”

Western team captain of women’s equestrian Kelsey Swainston, believes that riding isn’t something that can be learned very quickly.

“Successful riders have a sixth sense of feel and can tell what’s going on underneath them as well as what the horse is going to do next and how they can adjust in order to react appropriately to the horse’s needs in order to get the most out of them,” Swainston said. “I would say that competitive riding, as in what we do here on the team, stems a lot from natural talent because there are some elements that cannot be taught.”

According to Taylor, the off-seasons, which occurs between mid April and up until the beginning of fall semester, is not a cakewalk for the team either.

“We are expected to ride and show all summer with different trainers and many different horses back where we are from, so there isn’t a real ‘off-season.’ It really is a year-round sport,” Taylor said. “I get to do what I love, ride horses, all year long. I really enjoy being pushed to stay in top shape so I ride my best, and I know all the hours in the weight room really pays off.”