By: Grace Schumacher
The existence of the University of Mary Washington’s equestrian team hung in the balance this past summer following the loss of their host barn. Hazelwild Farm Equestrian Center, the varsity team’s longtime home base for training and boarding, told UMW it could no longer accommodate the program following their decision to financially downsize.
UMW graduate student and new head coach of the equestrian team Erin Grampp returned to UMW to provide the riding program with a new home. Stepping into the role of head coach, Grampp offered up her self-owned and operated Erin-Kathleen Gramp (EKG) Stables as the team’s new home facility.
Grampp graduated from Mary Washington College in 2002. She received her level three certification from the American Riding Instructors Association (ARIA) in 2004 and opened EKG Stables at Hill Valley Farm in the same year.
Located in Spotsylvania County, EKG Stables will not only function as a host barn to the equestrian team, it also provides public training and instruction to clients and actively hosts collegiate level shows.
While Hazelwild has been their riding location for close to two decades, the team is ready and excited for a fresh start.
Junior team captain Caitlin Shirvinski is no stranger to the exciting highs and unexpected lows that come along with this sport.
“Finding the right place for us was challenging,” said Shirvinski. “We wanted to stay competitive while growing as a team. I feel like we’ve achieved an environment that not only encourages learning but is commanded by an instructor who has the experience and knowledge to take the program in a new direction.”
Grampp’s coaching and riding experience, as well as her active role within the equestrian community, landed her the role as head coach.
“I’m thrilled to be chosen to take the reins as the head coach of the Equestrian team at the University of Mary Washington,” said Grampp. “I rode at Hazelwild during my time on the team. When I was an Eagle 20 years ago, I never envisioned having this opportunity…. I’m excited to give back [to the UMW community].”
Many current riders are excited for the new direction their program is heading in.
“I’m feeling really thankful,” said sophomore rider Ann Marie Camp. “We get the opportunity to work alongside a UMW alum who we know has our best interests at heart.”
The varsity riding team is planning to take part in eight shows this year in addition to regional, zones and national championship competitions. The University of Mary Washington is a member of Region Four, Zone Four of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA).
IHSA’s zoning structure organizes the country into five zones which, in turn, provides equal opportunities for educational and competitive programs.
Keeping with tradition, and as one of the few college equestrian programs that is offered as a varsity sport, the team is looking to add another exciting chapter to UMW’s record book.