If you are a horse-crazy girl, you probably dream of going off to college with your horse. Where I live, in Northern California, it is entirely possible to go to university and bring your horse with you. There are plenty of veterinary medicine students studying at University of California Davis and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has a mustang horse as their mascot, so you can bet they have a competitive equestrian team. Recently I had the pleasure of visiting Columbia, South Carolina and meeting several members of the University of South Carolina equestrian team. There are many things to see and do in Columbia, SC but the Gamecock Women’s Equestrian Team caught my attention in this university town.
Not only were these young ladies accomplished equestrians, they were as smart as a whip, or should I say crop?
“Being a member of gamecock equestrian was one of the best decisions, and blessings, of my life,” said Kirklen Petersen, USC Gamecock Equestrian team member. “I have had such a wonderful experience here thus far and there is still more to come.”
Kirklen Petersen, a junior hunt seat rider, thought she’d step away from horses and the competitive world of horse shows when she looked at colleges. “I originally was not interested in college riding because for some crazy reason i thought it would be a step down from what i had been doing all throughout high school. I was totally wrong. I had initially told my coaches I was not interested my sophomore year in high school. During my junior year, I came to USC and visited and stayed with a friend on the team. She showed me a great time and I loved all of the coaches and teammates that I met. I fell in love with the school and the facility and so much more. I think I called the coach the next day and told her I had changed my mind and would love to be a part of the team if they would still have me.”
“Being a member of gamecock equestrian was one of the best decisions, and blessings, of my life,” said Kirklen Petersen, USC Gamecock Equestrian team member. “I have had such a wonderful experience here thus far and there is still more to come. USC and USC Athletics and Gamecock equestrian have all given me incredible opportunities to grow as a person and I will be forever thankful for all of the support. I have made some amazing memories here and enough friends to last a life time.
We are a smaller team compared to many equestrian teams. We are like a big family. Everyone could tell you at least a few personal facts about every teammate. We love each other, support each other, and most importantly, love spending time together. I am a firm believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason and everything works out the way it is meant to me, and I am so glad that I ended up where I did.”
“To be a part of this team, you need to compete at the highest level in USEF Equitation, NRHA Reining and/or AQHA Horsemanship,” according to University Of South Carolina Head Equestrian Coach Boo Major.
The University of South Carolina equestrian team offers English and Western riding with student athletes competing in the following events; Equitation & Over Fences, Horsemanship and NRHA reining. My days of showing horses are long behind me, so please forgive me on the technical errors that I am surely committing.
One Wood Farm Barn Manager Maggie Barton attempted to give me some background on how horse and rider come to compete in the show ring. “Learning how to figure out how to ride other people’s horses requires fine-tuned equestrian skills,” noted Barton. “In the show ring, you have four minutes to figure out a horse before you compete. A lot relies on the girl’s riding ability to be able to understand what type of horse she is riding.”
“We have a very strong equestrian team,” said Coach Major. “We have about a 95% return rate and all of our students go on to graduate.”
When I asked Major why there were only women on the equestrian team, she explained that due to Title 9 compliance, they are an all woman team. “The sport of collegiate equestrian is an emerging sport with NCAA,” according to Major.
The 40 girl team is composed of a mix of English and Western riders. There are 26 horses at One Wood Farm, with many horses in the program on loan to the team. I wrongly assumed that the student athletes came to the University of South Carolina with their own horses. If you have an interest in joining the USC equestrian team you’ll want to polish your boots, but first you’ll need to hit the books. The Gamecock Equestrian team is committed to their academics first and foremost. And with the leadership of Boo Major, currently in her 21st year of coaching, these ladies will be seeing plenty of blue ribbons in their future.
If You Go:
University of South Carolina Equestrian Team
One Wood Farm
1201 Syrup Mill Road
Blythewood, South Carolina 29016