After keeping a low profile for many years, the Bowdoin equestrian team has decided to use this time to rebuild and refocus the team’s effort on increasing its organization, skills, and accessibility.
The equestrian team has kept a relatively low profile in previous years—preferring to remain a smaller group of students that worked closely together. It made the organization of the team easier, yet it also brought an unintended consequence of making the transition between this year and last year much more difficult.
A little over half the team graduated last year and several other members are currently abroad—leaving captains Tilly Tanga ’19 and Emma Kellogg ’20 as the only returning team members this fall.
“It wasn’t like [the past captains] weren’t focused on making it inclusive, it was more of a word of mouth thing and kind of friends riding together, and this year we decided to focus on making a more concrete club structure,” said Kellogg.
A key goal of theirs this year is to focus on increasing on-campus awareness of the team.
“I think we decided that we wanted to focus on inclusivity and make it readily available to people on campus. We’re currently trying navigate that, which is something that the club hasn’t dealt with because they haven’t been focused on advertising,” said Tanga.
The team’s recent focus on increasing awareness has played a key role in its successful recruitment of new members—14 total, largely comprised of first years and sophomores have joined the team.
Despite its success in increasing membership, this growth has brought some growing pains, such as struggling with widespread degrees of experience with the sport.
“It’s hard to have a lot of different people of varying degrees [of experience] because scheduling wise, it becomes a bit difficult to have a lot of different levels practice and move around in a finite number of lesson spots,” said Kellogg. “So, that’s been something we’ve had to navigate with this year—just because there’s been way more interest this year than in past years.”
Equestrian is only a club level sport, so it does not receive as much funding as varsity level teams on campus. However, the team competes in a region that includes schools like University of New Hampshire (UNH) and Dartmouth, where equestrian is a varsity sport, and therefore better funded. Despite this challenge, the team has found a way to adapt and compete with these schools. In 2016, the Polar Bears ended the season eleventh out of twelve teams.
In terms of increasing accessibility, the team has also stressed the possibility of financial accommodation by both the team, coach, and even the College itself for the fees it requires of its members. To participate, students are required to pay for the price of lessons and are also expected to have gear such as riding boots. Last year, the cost of lessons was $45 per lesson, but the price was reduced to $25 per lesson this year.
“We have had a conversation with our coach and managed to reduce the price to make it slightly more accessible,” said Tanga. “If students feel like they are very dedicated to the club and would like to compete, they are more than welcome to go to student activities and work with their respective deans to receive some financial aid to participate in the club.”
There is another change that the team must handle: the team’s current stables in Nobleboro, Maine are currently under renovation, due to the new owner’s desire to expand the barn and stables. In a sense, this expansion is mirrored by the team’s own “refocusing” and increased accessibility.
The team’s ability to adapt is one of its key strengths, and it has repeatedly conveyed its ability to do so many times in the past. To them, this is just another instance where the team must rise to the challenges that they face, adapt and prepare for their season next year.
“We’ll get back to competing as soon as possible. That’s our main goal because we are a competitive team and it’s always nice to have something to show for all the effort the riders are putting in.” said Tanga.