With a new coach and state-of-the-art facility, Bowdoin’s club equestrian team is ready to get back in the saddle. The overhauls are part of the team’s efforts, spearheaded by Madison Nortz ’24, to revive the team following years of Covid-19 shutdowns and cancellations.
“During Covid, we didn’t do any riding because of issues getting a coach. There were always cancellations because of the weather. The stables didn’t have an indoor practice area [and] it was really difficult to ride in a bad climate. There were just some scheduling snafus that we had to get over. So hopefully this year, we can do it much more consistently,” Nortz said.
The team’s new commute is a 25-minute drive to Sassy Strides Equestrian in Lisbon, built in 2017. Amenities on the 50 acre complex include two outdoor arenas, a climate-controlled indoor arena, full sets of hunter and jumper fences, trail access and 16 stalls, making it one of the premier facilities for riding in New England.
“Even when we had that 40-degree-below day last winter, I was riding in there in a T-shirt, so it allows us to ride all year round,” Nortz said.
Renae Kachnovich, the new coach, is also the head trainer at Sassy Strides Equestrian. She has more than 10 years of experience riding.
“??It’s a lot of hours. It’s a lot of planning. It’s a lot of being organized and being dedicated to their success. But I absolutely love it. I love being able to help them grow. Seeing their riding develop and change is the biggest reward for me by far,” Kachnovich said.
Nortz appreciates Kachnovich’s leadership.
“Her passion and excitement for this are definitely inspiring some of the people interested in the team,” Nortz said. “Having a strong leader who is willing to put forth all this effort makes other people rise to the occasion.”
The equestrian team intends to practice at least once a week with two competitions on the horizon for this season. The team competes in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA), which provides equestrian competition for college and university students. Because of the way IHSA counts points in competition, the team hopes to have riders of all experience levels.
“There’s an individual class, so your points are counted individually, but then there’s also a team component. The coach likes having a ‘point rider’—the person competing for points—for each division,” Nortz said. “You want to space riders out so you have as many people in different divisions as possible. That gives you the best chance of scoring with a diverse range of riders. It’s a myth that you have to have a lot of experience.”
In fact, the team CampusGroups is largely made up of first years with little-to-no riding experience. Due to budget limitations, the team will only be able to support between seven and 10 riders. Kachnovich anticipates having to make cuts, but hopes as many people as possible will get to participate.
“As coach of the Bowdoin equestrian team, I just want to expand the team and encourage growth not only as riders but as teammates and students. The team hasn’t gotten the attention that I think that they deserve,” Kachnovich said.
The team is hoping to compete at the IHSA’s first competition on October 7 and 8.