Written by Sasha Hart
If you’ve ever seen a group of people wearing beige pants and tall boots standing by the Loomis circle on a weekday afternoon, you’ve had your first exposure to the Colorado College Equestrian team. The CC Equestrian team practices four afternoons a week—Tuesday through Friday—at MM Equestrian Center in Fountain, Colo. The team is coached by Tracey Powers.
Riders practice and compete in an English riding discipline called “equitation,” in which they are coached in practice and judged in competition on their own abilities and positions on the flat or over jumps, rather than on the horse’s abilities or form. Everyone is welcome to join the equestrian team—people who have never ridden before, people who have been riding since before they could walk, and people who may only have experience doing a certain type of riding. There is no requirement to compete either; riders may simply gain experience riding different horses both at home and at shows. At MM Equestrian Center, there are several horses that students can ride. These horses are shared with the UCCS Equestrian team and local high school equestrian teams.
CC’s equestrian team is affiliated with the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association. This means that during the show season, between October and February, riders who are interested in showing can attend horse shows held on various weekends and compete against riders from other universities. Classes at these shows range from flat classes where riders must complete a series of movements at the walk and trot or walk, trot, and canter, to jumping classes where riders complete a course of jumps set between two feet, two and a half feet, or three feet, depending on their ability level.
At shows, riders draw a random horse for each class they ride in from a selection of horses provided by the team hosting the show. As such, riders have generally never ridden the horses they draw at a show. This system might seem nerve-wracking, but it ensures that riders have the most even playing field possible and that no one rider has an advantage over another. The horses are all used for IHSA riders at their home barns, so they are always well-matched for the abilities of the people riding them.
Riders can gain points at shows based on how well they do in each class; if they accumulate enough points at the end of the show season, they may qualify for regional finals. If they perform well at regional finals, they can qualify for zone finals, which encompasses a larger geographic area. Last year, senior Anna Lynn-Palevsky qualified for the Zone 8 finals, which were hosted at Stanford, and she finished the weekend in third place in her division. This year, the team has one rider, senior Sereniti Mora, heading to regional finals.
The opportunity to bond with other team members is a draw for many of the students on the team. Anna Lang, a sophomore on the equestrian team, commented that driving to the barn in the afternoons and to horse shows on weekends—sometimes as far away as Lincoln, Neb.—has allowed her to form close friendships with other members of the team. This seems to be a sentiment shared by many of the team members.
However, for people who are interested in other types of riding, riding at a higher level, or getting involved with horses in a different capacity, the equestrian team might not be the right fit. There are many options to ride within a 30 to 45-minute drive off campus, including western stables, dressage barns, jumper barns, and event barns. Furthermore, people who want to get involved with horses but don’t particularly want to ride may be interested in volunteering at one of the therapeutic riding centers in the Colorado Springs area that offers lessons to individuals with disabilities and a variety of special needs. Ultimately, it’s all just a matter of finding the right place that suits one’s riding and teaching interests and capabilities. Nevertheless, joining the CC Equestrian team may be the most convenient place to look!