By KAITLYN MCCLUNG
Sophomore Ruth Wilmot only somewhat recently immersed herself in the equestrian world since joining the UMW team her freshman year. She always had aspirations to ride growing up, but it was not an option financially. Because there is no cost for riding classes and some gear can be borrowed, The UMW equestrian team has finally given her the opportunity to pursue a new hobby that she has been interested in for a while.
“I wanted to try something new, and I was accidentally signed up, and I was about to pull out, and the coach was like ‘Hey, we actually need people who have never ridden before. You should join us,’ so I did,” said Wilmot.
While looking at colleges, Wilmot was hoping to find one with an equestrian team because she knew it was something she wanted to try in this new stage of her life. She would have attended UMW either way, but the fact that we have an equestrian team was a bonus for her. Wilmot currently competes in walk trot in the flat class, but she has high hopes for jumping in the future. Although she said it may take a while to reach that level, she is excited to learn and have fun while doing so.
The team has the perfect amount of commitment for Wilmot. Practices take place twice a week: one individual lesson and a team lesson. Practices last for two hours altogether, including the half hour spent before and after tacking up. She wouldn’t consider the team to be low commitment because members are required to do everything else other teams do, such as weight lifting, cardio, and study halls.
“I’d say a bonus is that the classes are arranged around your schedule… Other teams will have 3 hours where they’re not allowed to have class because they have practice, and they know that ahead of time whereas for us, we can sign up for whatever we want,” said Wilmot.
There are eight shows per year. Three to four are typically held in February, and the rest of the dates depend on when other colleges want to host them. UMW hosts two back-to-back in a weekend, usually in February.
When asked about challenges of being on the team, Wilmot listed a common struggle among all athletes: efficient time management. It is especially difficult when UMW hosts the back-to-back shows in February.
“You know you don’t have time to do homework that weekend at all because either you’ll be at the barn or you’ll be sleeping, so definitely planning around like looking ahead and being like ‘I have midterms the week after I have a show, I need to start studying now because I won’t have time later,’” said Wilmot.
A challenge more specific to the equestrian team would be the fact that team members ride a different horse each time they practice.
“Each horse is a good horse, a great horse, but they each have their own individual quirks, so you have to learn how to work with them as a partner to do your best and look your best [in competition],” said Wilmot.
This mimics competitions in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. Wilmot explained that unless your team is the one hosting, the rider competes on a horse they have never ridden as to measure the rider’s abilities.
Wilmot describes Hazelwild, the barn where the equestrian team practices, as having a family atmosphere. Last year, the equestrian team helped out with fall festival, a community event where children go to Hazelwild and ride ponies while being led by two members from the equestrian team. In addition to fall festival, riders at the middle and high school level hold a show at Hazelwild that the UMW equestrian team helps out with, and the team volunteers at a shelter for older horses. The community event for this year is still being planned.