After being unable to compete fall semester due to inadequate funding, the equestrian team has regrouped and is now galloping into its second and final show of the season at Dartmouth this weekend.
According to captain Chrissy Hayes '14, the team's resurgence is thanks in part to the arrival of a new coach, Paulajean O'Neill, who has over 30 years of professional training experience. The team also changed its home farm to New Boston Barn in Gray, Maine this January.
In the team's only show thus far, at the University of New Hampshire on March 10, captain Karina Graeter '14 finished second and third in her two events, while Hayes finished third and fourth.
Typically, the team's show season is based off results in the fall, which then qualify the team for divisional and zone championships in the spring. The squad competes against teams from the Maine-New Hampshire-Vermont area in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association's Zone 1, Region 2.
Unfortunately for Bowdoin's equestrians, the current group is not comprised of enough riders to win shows.
Graeter said that in order to have a shot at winning a show, "we need one more division and then we need everyone to come to the same show." The team currently has multiple riders in some divisions and too few in others.
This year, Aubrey Zott '14, Hannah Levy '12, Graeter, and Hayes have been regular competitors.
Hayes speculated that the team's numbers may have recently diminished because "we didn't really have the best relationship with our last coach."
The equestrian team was founded in 2000, when a few Bowdoin students decided to make an intercollegiate riding team. The first riders recruited a coach, who remained with the team until last fall.
"It's one of those clubs that just depends on who's interested," Hayes added. "When we came here as freshmen there was just one person on the team, Ilse Pukinskis, and she graduated last year."
"We've been trying really hard to get the team up and going again," said Graeter. "A lot of people in the Brunswick and Bowdoin communities have been really supportive of us getting the team back together."
During the winter, the team searched for additional funding for its expenses, which include lesson subsidies and travel costs to shows. The riders worked to prove to the SAFC that funding was necessary in order to compete, and that it would not just be used for leisurely pursuits. Meanwhile, Graeter worked on redesigning the team's website.
"We had a lot of trouble with student activities thinking that the team wasn't serious and they were just funding people to go riding," Graeter said. "This year has been spent trying to prove that we want to have a team that can compete. This is what we do, and this is how we want to represent Bowdoin."
The shows that Bowdoin competes in are split into eight divisions ranging in difficulty from walk-trot to open, with each division consisting of a flat class and a fence class. One rider from each team may earn points in each division, and the team with the most points at the end of the day wins. Additionally, a high point rider is crowned at each show as the individual who accumulates the most points.
Unlike other sports, in which athletes arrive at matches with their own bats, balls, racquets, skis, and sticks, equestrian riders meet their horses only once they are at the show.
"You show up, your horse is picked at random, and you get a little description of it—about a sentence long—saying things like 'use crop' or 'don't use crop,'" Hayes said. "Then, you just get on your horse and go into the ring to compete."
Graeter and Hayes hope that the club will continue to grow in the fall, and mentioned that a few students have already expressed interest in joining the team next year.
"At a school like Bowdoin, given the demographic of people that go here, there's a lot of people who ride horses," said Hayes. She added that the team always welcomes new members, men and women.
"Our goal is to get one of our riders qualified for regionals, which you do by winning individually, and we might host a show this fall for the first time in four or five years" Hayes added. "As of now, other schools just get mad because we take away their points."
Bowdoin and Bates share a barn and show together, and, as Graeter said, "Together we make a normal sized team. Personally, I would like to see the team become a little more stable. A lot of that has to do with getting people to be more enthusiastic about riding consistently and showing it."