By Kelly Lindenau
At 5 a.m. on any given weekend, most college students are still sleeping in their beds. For the 28 members of Rider’s Equestrian Team, waking up that early is simply part of their routine.
Rider hosted its first and only home show of the season on Nov. 4. The university welcomed 11 other teams from the region in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) to its barn at Briarwood Farm in Ringoes.
The show featured 26 classes to compete in, with events such as novice, intermediate and advanced jumping and flats, in addition to beginner and advanced walk/trot and walk/trot/canter. Horses were randomly drawn through a lottery system to ensure fairness, and each class featured eight to 10 riders.
After almost a 12-hour day, the show ended with Rider “in the ranking of the top schools,” according to Head Coach Katie Benson. Benson said she was extremely satisfied with the team and its progress, citing its success to “focus on dedication and early preparation.” She said the team came together quickly this season and has a full roster of riders on every level and a fall season packed with training. The members are active within the team and are willing to help in any way they can. They will be serving as volunteers to help run the IHSA Nationals, due to the event’s close proximity in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Unlike most sports, the equestrian season is spread across both the spring and the fall semesters. There are six shows that take place in the fall and two in the spring.
The country is split up into eight zones, and within those zones are regions. After regional competitions comes zones, and after zones comes nationals. Riders are ranked by a point system, and once 36 points are accumulated, a rider is able to qualify for regionals. Alyssa Lintz, a sophomore history major, has already clinched her regional qualification. As a girl who “didn’t participate in sports in high school [and] never really qualified for anything,” Lintz said that it makes the excitement that much sweeter. She joined the team last year in order to fulfill a dream of hers and her late father’s, a facilities worker at Rider who passed away in August 2013.
The team is entirely self-sustained and run by the student athletes. Senior finance major and captain Polina Selinevich, said, “Unlike [Division 1] teams, our survival goes beyond just practicing and competing; we have to deal with all of the other aspects that come with sustaining ourselves as a club.” This means that the team is in charge of managing their budget, communicating directly with the league’s headquarters to ensure their eligibility in the IHSA and organizing and running their own competitions. At events such as their home shows, the members, in addition to competing, act as volunteers alongside some of their parents to ensure everything runs smoothly.
While the team does all they can to help make the lives of Selinevich and her co-captain, junior marketing major Amanda Miller, easier, there still is a lot of pressure on the two women. Miller said she assists Selinevich with whatever she needs and handles matters such as management and attendance. While Selinevich stated that it gets stressful when “a lot of people look to [her] for answers, and [she] always needs to provide them,” she wouldn’t want to trade her title for the world. Her favorite part about being captain is watching the team grow, and seeing the excitement the freshmen have about being on the team and how quickly and thoroughly they involve themselves.
The team is currently ranked No. 3 in its region, but getting to that point was no easy task. When Selinevich joined in the fall 2014, she said the team was considered big with 15 active members. By the fall of 2015, that number had dropped to 10, and not all of those members were active. Through the efforts of Selinevich and former captain Nina Farrell, ’16, they were able to generate a renewed interest in the team and currently have 28 active members.
Even though most members had interest in the team and were aware of it before attending Rider, Miller credits the majority of their recruitment and retention to the team’s attitude, saying, “I made so many great friends through it that there was no way I was quitting.” The welcoming, friendly atmosphere that the team provides at open houses and activity fairs, and continues to maintain during the season, is hard to compete with. While being a freshman on a collegiate team may seem intimidating, the equestrian team makes everyone feel at home.
Alicia Weismann, a freshman history major, said that “all the upperclassmen were extremely warm and welcoming towards [us].”
Assistant coach Carole Zempel echoed this statement, adding that she can see the women being best friends for a long time after this, because of their “good, positive energy.”