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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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‘A lifelong sport’

The+Texas+A%26amp%3BM+Equestrian+Team+will+compete+against+Auburn+on+Thursday+in+the+SEC+Championship+for+Equestrian.
Photo by File

The Texas A&M Equestrian Team will compete against Auburn on Thursday in the SEC Championship for Equestrian.

Texas A&M University’s Equestrian Team, composed of 55 Western and Hunt Seat, or English, riders, currently ranks fourth among the nation’s collegiate equestrian teams, having beat TCU 12-7 in the last home competition of the season this past Saturday. On Thursday, the team will compete against Auburn in the SEC Championship for Equestrian.
As a year-round sport, Texas A&M’s Equestrian Team competes in shows in the spring and fall, including SEC and national championships. Competitions are free to the public and each one showcases the two disciplines of collegiate riding through four events: Equitation over fences, equitation on flats, horsemanship and reining. Each discipline is made up of 15 riders, with five riders showing at each competition. Riders, like other athletes, are recruited from high schools based on past performances at championships, and the recruitment process often begins as early as junior year.
Psychology junior Katie Resnick competes in the horsemanship event, a branch of the western discipline. Horsemanship requires riders to complete a complex pattern of eight maneuvers where they are judged by their positioning and connection with the horse. However, unlike junior or professional riding, amateur, or collegiate, riding requires riders to practice and compete in “catch ride,” or riding unfamiliar horses, in order to diversify their skill, Resnick said.
“The name of the game with collegiate equestrian is that you are getting on a horse you’ve never ridden before, riding it for four minutes, and then going off and doing your pattern,” Resnick said. “It’s all about diversity.”
Like many of her teammates, Resnick says it’s the love and passion for horseback riding that drives her determination to perform well and proudly represent Texas A&M. Although only a handful of collegiate riders go on to ride professionally, Resnick believes her love of horses will always remain an integral part of who she is.
“Horses are not only my hobby, they’re what keep me sane,” Resnick said. “I need to be around them just to reduce stress, to breathe sometimes. I know my life will always revolve around horses and I will always have horses in my life, whether or not I work directly with them. And that’s the amazing thing about riding — it’s a lifelong sport.”
Sports leadership senior and team member Hayley Webster rides in the equitation over fences event, a part of the Hunt Seat discipline. This particular event relies on the rider’s ability to control their horse over various fences while maintaining correct positioning and showmanship. Unlike the Western discipline, which uses quarter horses, English riding relies on warm-blooded horse breeds, Webster said, which often have more wild personalities and less training in their ground manners.
“One thing I look at as a great experience is being able to ride all the different horses we have here,” Webster said. “I like being able to see a change or improvement in the horse, although it’s harder to see the progression of the horses in college because you ride a different one each time. “It’s always a great feeling when you connect with your horse and do well because some of these horses are a bit more difficult to ride.”
Support for the Equestrian Team comes from not only the Athletic Department, but also from outside contributors, who donate all the horses used by the Equestrian Team. Additionally, Title IX, a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in educational programs, created and still supports A&M’s Equestrian Team, an all-female sport, said Tana McKay, head coach of Texas A&M’s Equestrian Team.
“We’re a Title IX sport,” McKay said. “It’s why we’re here. Even in high schools, it’s probably 85 percent women who are competing. There’s just not a lot of men who do it. We do get questions from men, but there are plenty of avenues for them. So they definitely have the opportunity to ride.”
Although there are no men on Texas A&M’s collegiate team, there are hundreds of surrounding riding clubs that offer opportunities for men to ride collegiately, including the Polo Teams and Rodeo Club.
During equestrian competitions, riders compete both individually and collectively. A rider’s individual score is totaled with the others’ and riders must compete as a team in order to compete effectively. Because of this, the team focuses on team building activities as well as individual riding skills, developing the team’s ability to think collectively, McKay said.
“It’s easy to get consumed with me, me, me in this sport, especially because they’re spread out and don’t all practice together,” McKay said. “So, it’s neat to watch those girls learn how to be team members, because it’s something they’ll take with them after they graduate and use in the workforce or relationships.”
Above all, the team prides itself on being able to represent Texas A&M in a way many other organizations cannot. Like other athletes, Mckay said, the riders are the face of  Texas A&M and work to represent the University to the nation. McKay and Resnick both encourage students to come out and support the Equestrian Team next season at competitions, which are free to the public.
“Even though you may not understand what’s going on, it’s just really fun to come out and watch,” Resnick said.  “We do yells, we stand up for the 12th Man, just like everybody else does. Just come out and support us, we’re doing this to represent the school because we’re first and foremost Aggies.”

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