Equestrian club grows in popularity, seeks expansion

Lauren Neibauer, a junior majoring in exercise science, participated in the homecoming parade earlier this year. Neibauer wore her riding gear along with the rest of the members of the equestrian team, but they weren't what got the crowd's attention. 

That was their horse Clover.

“We heard many positive comments along the parade route from people who didn’t know the equestrian program existed,” interim director of UA Equestrian Operations Diane Harrison said. “Since the parade, our phones are ringing off the hook with calls from people who saw the team and are excited about the University’s growth into this exciting sport.”

The University of Alabama equestrian team is a club sport coached by Ashley Morrison. The team participates in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association and scrimmages with colleges like Auburn University in the National Collegiate Equestrian Association. There are also certain qualifications for being a member on the equestrian team.

“We compete in IHSA, so we need riders at all levels. Because we compete in the hunt seat category, all members of our team ride in English saddles,” said Harrison. “Although the majority of riders have previous hunt seat experience, we do accept students who show promise in adapting to the riding skills quickly.”

As of right now, the team only competes as a hunt seat team, which is just English riding. There is a long-term plan to expand to include three other equestrian disciplines such as western, therapeutic riding and polo. Harrison said the equestrian team is currently raising funds to build a facility that will accommodate the entire program.

She also said between 70 and 80 students have tried out for the team in the past two years.

“We are also pleased with the growing awareness of UA’s Equestrian Program on campus and around the nation,” Harrison said. “Not only are UA students getting more involved, but young equestrian enthusiasts around the country are excited about participating in our program.”

Being a part of the equestrian team isn’t just about going to the barn for practice and going to meets. Each team member is required to maintain a certain GPA, work out weekly, complete community service hours and assigned a care horse.

It is also important that the team horses are pampered after a long week of practice.

“Taking extra care of the horses on the weekends is an important part of not only being on the team but being an equestrian,” said Caelan Douglas, a sophomore majoring in aerospace engineering. “You can’t be a good rider without having true horsemanship.”

The team has already started the 2016-2017 season and took home a huge win against Auburn University’s IHSA team during fall break. The team is currently finished competing for fall semester but has a full schedule for the upcoming spring semester.

“I’m really excited about this show season because not only do we have a great group of people on the team, we have many good riders that are going to be huge contributors in competitions,” Neibauer said. “ I believe we can do very well as a team this season and we are very fortunate that we get to scrimmage some of the NCEA teams in hopes that our program will also move to that level.”

To get involved, you can follow the equestrian team on Facebook and Twitter at UA Equestrian Team. The team encourages all students and members of the community to come support them at their upcoming home meets in the spring.

“The team has given me the best possible learning experience,” Douglas said. “The opportunity to ride different horses and encounter all different kinds of horse care needs has quickly given me knowledge that takes many years to learn.”

To learn more about the UA equestrian team, you can visit its website at equestrian.ua.edu

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