Alabama equestrian gives back to the community

Alabama equestrian gives back to the community

Not far from campus on Culver Road, sits a place called River Oaks Farm, home to Alabama’s Equestrian team. Over the last seven years, this program has grown into a competitive and active sport.

Over the years Alabama’s Equestrian team has developed into a program that competes in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association [IHSA] against 412 colleges across the country.

At the IHSA, riders compete in both hunt seat [English riding] and western riding. Both men and women compete together at all levels from beginner to advanced.

“The IHSA truly fits our mission the best, because the mission of our program is to provide the equestrian opportunities for all those on campus and be very all-inclusive,” Harrison said.

Both of these divisions have different levels of riding that riders compete in. There are divisions of reining and horsemanship in western and jumping as well as flat classes in hunt seat.

Alabama is planning to start a fresh opportunity for students, children and adults of all ages to gain the benefits of interacting with horses through equine-assisted and therapeutic riding. The focus of this new opportunity will be the Rise Center, Capstone Village, Brewer Porch Children's Center and Adapted Athletics. 

"As a coach, I'm excited to bring therapeutic into the mix and be able to have our team members lend a hand and have some experiences that will impact them for years to come," western coach Paige Linne said. "As a team, we have talked a lot about what kind of legacy we want to leave as the founding western team, and it's a goal for us to build something we are proud of and that the university can be proud of."

The program will have adaptive athletics offered on campus for students who want to learn the competitiveness of this sport.

“We’ll be creating competitive equine sports and adapting the equipment so that those UA students can compete in equine sports, as well," Harrison said.

The University’s Equestrian team has also partnered up with the School of Social Work to research therapeutic riding and equine-assisted activities and how beneficial they can be to anyone.

“The School of Social Work is partnering with us on the therapeutic division. There is very little data on the benefits of equine therapy. So, we will be the only equestrian program that’s university-based in the country that is doing ground-breaking research on therapeutic riding and have this many equestrian disciplines out of one program.”

Harrison and her riders are very happy about this research opportunity. Along with expanding their opportunities for involvement, they are hoping to propose their new building plans. Harrison has raised over $1 million towards their new facility.

“We are excited," Harrison said. "To us it’s about providing equestrian benefits to all. We want to be able to have horses benefit all campus constituents.”

The University of Alabama’s Equestrian team has accomplished a lot throughout its seven years at River Oaks Farm. The team competes yearly and its next home meet will be January 19.

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