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Pres­ident of the eques­trian team senior Gianna Marchese com­petes in her first horse show of the season. (Photo: Gianna Marchese / Courtesy)

Not many Hillsdale stu­dents are willing to wake up at 5 a.m. on a Sat­urday. 

Not many — except for those on the Hillsdale College Eques­trian Team. For roughly five weekends every semester, these stu­dents drag them­selves out of bed to spend Sat­urday and Sunday com­peting in horse showings. 

“I’ve always really loved riding because it’s a very dif­ferent kind of sport — you have to com­mu­nicate with an animal,” said sophomore Mercy Tyne, a member of the club who’s been riding for 10 years. “And I love jumping — it’s a lot of fun.” 

The eques­trian team, which was started in 2011, is a club sport affil­iated with the Inter­col­le­giate Horse Show Asso­ci­ation (IHSA). Though any student on campus can sign up for a 1-credit once-a-week riding class at Premier Eques­trian Center in Hudson, Michigan, stu­dents in the club can choose to compete in out-of-town showings — in either hunt seat events (English riding) or stock seat events (Western-style riding). 

Although the weekends at horse shows mean early mornings and long days, it also means lots of laughs and bonding time for the team. 

“We have such a fun time together and so many laughs,” senior Gianna Marchese, the team’s pres­ident, said. “The eques­trian team is really like a family to me. I know I can always count on the barn to be a perfect release of any stress that college may cause.” 

Marchese and Tyne both do hunt seat, or English, riding. In hunt seat events, riders are judged on riding skills such as walking, trotting, can­tering, and — in the most advanced levels — jumping. 

“Since last year, we’ve had a lot of people point up into the walk-trot-canter level,” Tyne said. “So as a team we’re more advanced.” 

She added that the team thinks a lot more people are real­izing it exists. 

“This year I have been working really hard on making team spirit stronger,” Marchese said. “We are short a lot of officers this year, so I have to make sure I pick up the slack as well as help all the new officers enter into their roles.” 

Both Marchese and Tyne say that riding has taught them much more than merely how to trot and canter. 

“Riding has def­i­nitely taught me a lot about per­se­verance,” Marchese said. “I had a really bad fall the summer before my sophomore year and had to relearn every­thing that I had learned. It was a really tough expe­rience, but being able to be working with such amazing crea­tures and com­mu­nicate together was worth it.” 

Tyne added that getting away from campus for a few hours and heading out to the barn can be a great way to relieve stress. 

“When you’re at school, and you’re in the same place all the time, it can be a very high-stress envi­ronment,” she said. “Being able to go outside and go to the barn and meet new people you wouldn’t nor­mally meet can be very relaxing.” 

“Getting away and just having a com­pletely dif­ferent switch in brain waves is so relaxing,” she said. “It’s really great, because you’re just com­pletely in a dif­ferent place than when you’re at school.”