Goucher’s equestrian team is something to be proud of. The team is known for their skill and enthusiasm for the sport. There are even some places on campus where the horses venture with their riders, such as the jumps near a trail in the woods. Unlike most sports, the equestrian season is a nearly all year. Several events take place both on and off campus. Horseback riding is an interesting sport in that it involves more than just a competitor and their teammates; it involves the competitor and another animal that they themselves are responsible for. In a way, the horse is valued much as a teammate and partner.
There is a lot of work that goes into the team, beyond the shows and competitions. Goucher is one of the only schools to host horses on its campus, so riders have the liberty to practice and train on their own and with instructors multiple days a week.
Ari Schlossberg, a senior who is going on his fourth year on the team, talks about some of the process behind the horse shows and how they operate.
Surprisingly, home events take up more of the day than away events. The day starts as early as 5:30 AM and lasts until about 5 PM. All riders are expected to groom and tack up the horses. The horses that the riders compete with that day are not necessarily the ones that they have been practicing with. The available horses are not decided by the riders, but the horse will most likely match the skill level of the rider. When the competing school arrives, there will usually be horses being “schooled” in the outside arena. These are horses that have to be worked on for many various reasons, and the people riding the schooling horses are able to display their skills to the opposing school.
Once the horses are all groomed and tacked, they need to be warmed up. Warm-ups are important for both the rider and the horse. Schlossberg says that warming up gets the horse’s temperature, breathing, and muscles prepped for working and being active out in the ring. He also says that when he’s competing, it is very easy for him to “get in the zone.”
There is not as much rivalry between schools in terms of equestrian sporting as one might expect. However, there are still intense situations. If a rider’s score is tied with another rider, they will compete with each other for a dominant score, which can be more personal to the rider than most parts of a competition.
Schlossberg says that competing is “an act of focusing.” There is a checklist of things that a rider needs to be aware of in terms of their strengths and weaknesses, paying special attention to the skills that they have fine-tuned over the course of any given training period. He states that. when thinking about horsemanship, there is no one thing that is more important than any other. “Poise” is the word Schlossberg says most accurately encapsulates it. “The idiom ‘get back in the saddle’ exists for a reason.”