By: Alyssa Murphree, March 5, 2017
Delaware Valley University is home to two equestrian teams that are governed by the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, or IHSA. There is a hunt seat team as well as a western team. Collectively however, they are known as the Delaware Valley University Equestrian Team (DVUET).
The goal of the IHSA is to promote competition for riders of all skill levels, regardless of financial status while enrolled in college. What makes the IHSA unique from other equestrian competitions is the fact that owning a horse is not necessary and that riders compete on a team in what is a typically individualized sport. Multiple shows are held throughout the school year and are hosted by universities within the region. DelVal hosts at our very own Equestrian Center a few times a year. At shows, riders randomly draw horses provided by the host school and enter the show ring without a warm up or chance to practice riding that particular horse. Competing on an unfamiliar horse is the true test of the rider’s skills and confidence.
Teams compete in regional, zone, and national competitions. The DVUET has been incredibly successful in all three. They have too many regional and zone championship wins under their belt to count and just last year, the hunt seat team placed eighth at nationals.
DVUET secretary Kim David is a member of both the hunt seat and western teams and last year’s reserve national champion in Intermediate Western Horsemanship. In the spirit of the western team’s win at regionals, and qualification for semi-finals this past weekend, I talked to Kim about what it’s like being a member of the team.
Q:What is your favorite part of being on the Equestrian Team?
A:The Equestrian Team offers such a unique opportunity to not only get to ride a wide variety of horses, but also to truly experience horseback riding as a team sport. It’s so rewarding to watch everyone not only improve their riding skills, but also their team spirit, leadership skills, and relationships with everyone else on the team. I love all of the opportunities we have to learn from each other, watch everyone’s hard work pay off, and motivate each other to keep improving, because that’s what it’s really like to be on a team. In the equestrian world outside of IHSA, this true team-like atmosphere is really hard to find. There’s no such thing as riding for just for yourself here, because every single rider in every class is crucial to the team in some way.
Q:What is the most challenging part of being on the Equestrian Team?
A:The Equestrian Team challenges your riding on a whole other level because not only do you have to be adept at riding your own horse or the horses at your barn, you also have to be able to catch-ride a horse drawn at random in a show setting. The horse you draw is one that you’ve most likely never ridden before, and you then have walk into the ring and perform on the flat or over fences without a warmup. This truly tests a rider’s feel, and their ability to adapt and adjust their aids according to the specific mount they’ve drawn. With this challenge brings a rare opportunity to ride a vast variety of horses and a chance to hone in on your feel, inevitably making you a better and more well-rounded rider.
Q: Any advice for anybody considering trying out?
A:If you are thinking about trying out for the Equestrian Team, the best thing you could do is to get out and ride as many different horses as possible. Do a search for the local barns in your area, try out a new trainer, hop on a bunch of lesson horses and try to figure out what makes each horse perform at their best. Also, don’t limit yourself to just trying out for the hunt seat team just because you have no western experience (and vise versa). The first time I rode western was at the western team tryouts my freshman year, and putting myself out there and pushing myself to try something new was the best decision I ever made. Not only did I end the season reserve champion at Nationals, I gained a whole new appreciation for the style, horses, and everything that I learned (and continue to learn) from starting this new discipline. It definitely has made me a better hunt seat rider, and an immensely better horsewoman in general, so don’t be afraid to try something new.
Q:What is your most memorable horse show experience?
A:There are so many memorable moments when you’re traveling to horse shows before sunrise with a team that has truly become your family. One event stands out in particular however, from last year’s Western Semi-Finals competition at the University of Findlay. A senior on our team needed to do a music video for one of her classes, and enlisted the help of everyone on our team to help her do it. From the hallway of our hotel room, inside the show arena, and outside the ring behind some trees, the filming of this music video commenced and it was unforgettable to say the least. Most people join the team looking to ride and show, but what most people don’t realize is that it also comes with the opportunity to make priceless memories with people that become lifelong friends.
Q:How does it feel to be part of the winning team at regionals and what are you looking forward to as you advance in competition?
A:This year’s season for the Western team has been nothing but an uphill battle to become the winning team of the region. Every single rider, and every single class counted towards us fighting our way to the top and advancing as a team to Semi-Finals. Going into the last regular season horse show, we were tied with Penn State Main for High Point Team, and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced so much stress (or motivation) to give it everything we got to come through victorious. Finding out after the last class that we made it by a margin of three points was one of the best feelings in the world, and to be able to share that feeling with an entire team is even better. Now that we have the opportunity to represent our school at Semi-Finals, I’m looking forward to keeping the motivation strong as we work even harder for ourselves and for each other, to hopefully advance on as a team to IHSA Nationals in May at the Kentucky Horse Park.