Though they compete against varsity squads up to four times their size, Bowdoin’s club equestrian team has earned more than its fair share of medals this fall.
In its third show of the season at the University of Vermont on October 14, Bowdoin’s five riders all placed in their respective events, with some finishing as high as third.
“How it usually works is you do one event in the morning and one in the afternoon,” said captain Chrissy Hayes ’14. “In the morning, they do a round of jumping over fences. It’s really fun. You get on a random horse and jump eight jumps in a row in the correct order, and you’re judged on how well you do it. In the afternoon we do what’s called a flat class, where you don’t jump.”
The style of horse riding most common in college competition, equitation, judges the rider rather than the horse. To preserve fairness, competitors are paired randomly with horses provided by the host school.
“It’s hard because you get on the horse seconds before you compete, so you have to get your bearings straight and figure it out,” said Lucy Tomb ’16. “You do know which horse you’re riding in advance, so you can watch other people ride it and see what they’re doing wrong and what they’re doing right and how that’s affecting the horse.”
As a team that is almost entirely self-run, equestrian practices can be hectic.
“We practice two days a week at the New Boston Barn in Gray, Maine,” said Meg Broderick ’16. “Our whole team doesn’t practice all at once, usually. There are three or four times a week when people go, so you pick two days based on your schedule.”
“We have all different levels of experience,” said Hayes. “One of our riders just started riding this year. It was her first time ever on a horse. We have other girls who have been riding their whole lives. We welcome all levels. Right now there are about eight people riding and five who ride competitively, but that number always changes.”
Though equestrianism is a relatively little-known sport on campus, Hayes says she has seen an increase in interest both from current and prospective students.
“I swear once a week I get an email from a prospective student who wants to ride. There are so many people in high school who ride and don’t realize Bowdoin has a riding team,” said Hayes. “I spend a lot of time just letting people know we have a team. We made a website and we have friends who are tour guides who direct kids to us.”
The equestrian team will compete this weekend at Dartmouth and will finish its season next weekend at UNH.