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Equestrian Club saddles up for competition

For the first time, Belmont University’s Equestrian Club has a competitive riding team and will go head to head against other schools in the area.

“We will compete as a team for the university but also as individuals,” said Morgan Wilters, vice president of the club. “We will be against schools like Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee State University.”

The Belmont Equestrian Club was created in the fall of 2012, but this semester is the first time members are riding competitively for the university. The team will attend two shows per semester at nearby school meets to compete in hunt seat, a form of riding that involves the horses jumping over fences.

In order for the members to be placed on the competitive team, they have to attend a first lesson at Hunters Court Stable, a barn and riding arena in Murfreesboro. The lesson is evaluated by Coach Amy Rippel.

“All members are assessed at the first lesson and will be placed separately based on their ability and experience,” said Wilters. “They will either be beginner, intermediate or advanced.”

The club is also somewhat exclusive because the members must pay fees to ride competitively. Semester dues are $20 for non-showing members and $125 for showing members. Lesson packages are $150 per month and the showing members must go to three out of four sessions during the month. Other equestrian show membership fees add up to $83. The coaching fee, split among the competitors, is $600 per day and if the show requires extra traveling arrangements, those costs are also added into a showing member’s fees.

“It’s definitely the most expensive sport ever,” said Julie Anderson, president of the club.

The competitive members must also go to practices once a week to improve on their English riding skills. They must know how to canter, walk and trot with the horses. Rippel teaches them how to manage on different horses using her own technique.

“It’s called all-catch riding,” said Rippel. “It’s all random. You draw a name from a hat, get on and go. You have to be able to get used to other horses.”

The prospective members are excited to start competing, but they are also ready to ride again after years of practice and previous competitions.

“I’ve been taking lessons for about 11 years now,” said White. “I’ve shown everything from a small pony to amateur horses.”

Courtney O’Connor, a junior here at Belmont, has also had her share of experience. “I competed for 10 years in different riding shows. I just recently got back into it again after a couple years because I missed it.”

By adding a competition portion to the club, the officers hope to recruit more students who want to get back in the circuit during college careers.

“Maybe, we’ll get regional or national champion which will get our name out there. We could get sponsored and it would help bring in other marketing,” said Wilters.

With the new team competing for Belmont and the welcoming of new members, the equestrian club is determined to go for the gold and bring home a win or two in the end.

“It’s all for the love of horseback riding, but I hope one day, we get the recognition as a force to be reckoned with,” said Anderson.

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