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.”