By Olivia Nicoletti
The underdog of organizations on campus has come close to regionals, as their top competitors fight for a spot on March 12.
The Rider equestrian team, consisting of 10 females, has been thrown for a loop during the pandemic, but they came back strong this year.
Due to a majority of the team being freshmen and sophomores before being sent home in 2020, the team has had to relearn how to work together.
United by their passions for riding, they commit hours and weekends at practice together, which ultimately strengthened and regained their bond.
Due to the pandemic, the schedule looked different for their 2021-2022 season. Usually, the team has competitions mostly in the fall, but this year, some shows were postponed to the spring semester.
Devon Shaw, a junior political science major, is the captain of the team and works closely with each member.
“The nice thing about having a small team is that we’re all so close now,” Shaw said. “Especially toward the end of the show day when we’re all just tired and ready to go home. We’re laughing and joking with each other and half the time, we’re just laughing about things that we don’t even know why we’re laughing…and so I’d say we have pretty good chemistry.”
When they travel to competitions, the team carpools allowing everyone to get acquainted wih their teammates on a personal level.
According to Nichole Hall, a junior gaming interactive media design major, everyone has to get up early on competition days, around 5:30-6 a.m., and they stop at Wawa before hitting the road.
“I met everyone through [being on the] team, it’s pretty cool,” Hall said. “We’re all in different majors and just all doing different things, but we all have this one thing that connects us.”
Dahlia Devivo, a junior criminal justice major, shares the same experience in connecting with other students on campus that she may not have known apart from being on the team.
“It gave me a sense of purpose on campus, like, I am a really team-oriented person,” Devivo said. “It also gave me a sense of community, like making friends with people who have similar interests and goals as me.”
According to Shaw, the team accepts everyone and no tryouts are required to join. The team is well-rounded, with some riders who have little experience versus others who have pursued this their whole life.
Devivo emphasized that she did not come to Rider to be a part of a Divison 1 team, therefore, being able to continue her horseback riding career at Rider was “a really big deal.”
Some obstacles occurred along the way for team members of the equestrian team. For Hall, she grew up performing a different style of riding.
She had experience with dressage, a traditional style of riding where the horse and rider perform different movements together, but had to switch to hunt seat riding, a style of forward straight riding when she joined the team.
She now lacks the connection with one specific horse because, at each show, they are given a random horse from the ranch and must perform with the randomly chosen one.
Others on the team, such as Shaw, described competition days as stressful, for similar reasons.
“When you get to the shows, you draw your horse out of the hat, and you get the name of your horse, you get on the horse, and you walk in the ring and you don’t even get to try or practice for like a few minutes,” Shaw said. “Honestly, the hardest part is just making the best of the situation that you’re given.”
Hall agreed that it can be defeating, especially when they do not get time to adjust to the new horse in ample time before the showing.
Hall continued, “I think it’s just part of the experience because we’re taught in our lessons how to deal with different types of horses. So even if you don’t ride wonderfully on that horse, I would say it’s still like a learning experience.”
Apart from the stress that competition entails, the team members agreed that they feel that being a part of the equestrian team is a great outlet from school life.
Looking forward to the rest of their season, on March 13, Shaw, and co-captain, Caitlyn Kube, a junior elementary education major, will perform in a competition in hopes of making it to regionals.
If they do not qualify, they expect to continue into the postseason which is when they have team bonding and elections to elect the following semester’s executive board.