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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Deis equestrians a unique team, not club

Published: April 27, 2012
Section: Features

Describing Brandeis’ equestrian team, captain Madeline Brown ’14 insists that many people “don’t understand the fact that it is a huge commitment and it is an athletic sport.” She classifies the group as a team, not a club, despite some of its unique components.

On the team, Brown explained that there are people who possess a “wide range of experience. I, for example, have been riding for 12 years but we also have people who have never ridden before.” This presents unique challenges to a team whose riders compete at different levels. While the team only requires members to attend one riding lesson per week, the time commitment remains daunting.

The riding stable is about 40 minutes away, so in a club sports van, the full trip lasts four to five hours. While each lesson itself is relatively short, the amount of time spent driving or at the stables is not. Brown does admit that “some people come to the club not knowing the commitment.” These people usually drop out but “the people who have ridden before are super enthusiastic.”

The concept of an Equestrian Team challenges the conventional meaning of the term “team.” While members may wear the same sweatshirts and ride in vans to lessons together, it is an individual contest with the horse when competing. Brown emphasizes the value of the relationship a rider has with their horse, a bond that no other sports team possesses. While riders usually get different horses each lesson, Brown acknowledges that she “definitely has favorites.” She believes in the power different horses have to teach various skills, explaining that “if you are having a specific problem, there is usually a horse that can help you fix that.”

Brown admits that it is “a little more difficult to bond with the team because not everybody goes to the same practice.” The team, therefore, holds dinners and fundraisers in order to connect with each other. She also mentioned the team’s sense of solidarity. Horseback riding clothes are expensive, and team members are connected enough to share clothing. Brown said, “If someone is the same size as me and they need a jacket, I would loan it to them for a day.” At times a unified team and at others a single competing horse-and-rider, the Equestrian Team is required to face both fronts.

The team also allows students a chance for leadership. The coach lives far from campus and it is up to students to arrange lessons and enter competitions. Brown is technically “lesson captain” and her role includes to scheduling lessons and communicating with team members. This team is driven entirely by the motivation of students.

While the number of equestrian teams on college campuses are growing, the program at Brandeis still stands out among its peer schools. Brown said that the “club sports department is hugely supportive of us. This year especially they gave us a lot of funding.” This funding helps team members pay for lessons, which are personalized instruction sessions that would strain the budget of the average college student. Brandeis’ team is one of 11 in the Greater Boston Area. Brown described the team’s success, noting that this year the team finished seventh in the region, compared to fifth last year. Five people qualified for regionals and two qualified for zones. She further explained that for upper-level horseback riding, zones is the step immediately before nationals.
After graduating college, horseback riding becomes a recreational activity for most. Brown noted that “you can ride after you graduate because they have alumni divisions at horse shows. A few seniors this year are hoping that if they stay in the area, they can still ride with us in the alumni division.” Despite becoming less competitive after college, the team emphasizes its dedication to each other and to its animals. Performing well at high-level competitions, Brown says the Brandeis equestrian team should not be disregarded as merely a club but rather it should be viewed as a functioning athletic team.