Photo courtesy of the Equestrian team
You may not have heard about The University of Akron’s English Equestrian team, but there’s a bit more to them than horseplay.
The club, which was created in 2002, started this semester with only four members but through heavy recruiting has grown to its current headcount of 13. It’s a diverse group, including members with an assortment of majors and differing ages, and a lineup of horse riders with varying degrees of experience.
“I love being around a group of students with the same love and dedication to this sport,” said Mackenna Mayfield, a junior majoring in nursing and president of the club. “Everyone is so different and unique.”
Every Sunday the riders practice at Stony Ridge Stables in Wadsworth, where they are assigned horses for each lesson based on their riding skill.
Though riders are never cut from the team, they are evaluated by Laura Hearty, the team’s coach, then sorted into designated classes of ability and experience. This corresponds to the class and division a rider competes in.
The club competes in around five regional horse shows each year, contending with local universities including Kenyon, Tiffin and Lake Erie College.
In the shows, riders are separated into their classes that are then grouped into flat classes and jumping classes.
“[Shows] are competitive,” said Cindi Casey, a senior majoring in psychology, “especially since we are outsized by some of the other schools.”
Held on Saturdays and Sundays, the shows challenge the riders’ equestrian skills and give them a chance to display the result of all their practice.
“Shows are where we present our hard work,” Mayfield said. “What is so special about showing is our team effort and individual effort. We ride to improve ourselves.”
The team’s hard work clearly paid off at its last show at Lake Erie where it achieved the High Point Award. Next year the team expects to see some of its riders advancing into new divisions, which is both an achievement for the individuals and, as the riders will be starting in more difficult classes for the first time, a challenge for the team.
Along with weekly practices and weekend shows, team members have the added responsibility of school.
“Balancing school and riding can become difficult at times,” Mayfield continued. “I have learned a lot the past three years on budgeting my time and prioritizing my responsibilities, and would not trade being on the team for anything.”
The riders have developed a camaraderie with each other through their lessons, and often take time during show weekends to explore the cities they stay in.
Mayfield and fellow rider Katie Virgo say they plan on doing more volunteering on behalf of the team next year, as well as continuing fundraising. Last year, they made jackets and designed a team logo.
The equestrian club’s Facebook page is “The University of Akron English Equestrian Team.” On Instagram its handle is @uaenglishequestrian. Anyone interested in more information can also email [email protected].
Mayfield and Virgo say they look forward to new riders of all types and experience joining the team next year.