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Miami Equestrian program competes in all three disciplines at national competitions

Miami will be represented by all three disciplines at national competitions for the first time in program history
Miami will be represented by all three disciplines at national competitions for the first time in program history

Miami University is home to more than 30 club sports, ranging from baseball and basketball to clay shooting and fencing. Students can find the most niche sports in Oxford and compete regionally and even nationally. 

One program that continuously excels on a national level is the equestrian program, which finds all three disciplines going to their respective national competitions in Tryon, North Carolina, in late April and early May.

The equestrian team is made up of between 80 and 100 riders each year and offers three disciplines: hunt seat, dressage and western. Each discipline focuses on a different aspect of horse riding and requires different equipment and points-systems. 

The western and hunt seat teams compete in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA). At the 2022 national competition, Miami won second place in two categories. 

This year is the first time in program history that every discipline will be at nationals, with the dressage team competing in the Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) national competition from April 25-27 and the hunt seat and western teams competing in the IHSA national competition May 3-5.                                   

“It’s pretty cool that we have representation across all three disciplines,” Heather Pinnick, the director of the equestrian program, said. “The dressage team itself qualified, plus an individual … and then the IHSA team, which is the hunt seat and the western, qualified. The hunt seat qualified along with two individuals in the high point rider, and then we also had a western individual.”

One of the high point riders, junior Mary Roskens, also serves as the program’s travel coordinator. She began horse riding with her mom early in her childhood.

“It was a natural avenue for me in a lot of ways,” Roskens said. “It was going to be harder for me to not ride horses than to ride horses.”

At Miami, the equestrian program provided Roskens not only with an opportunity to continue horse riding, but also a bond between the riders she wouldn’t find anywhere else.

“The equestrian team brought me the sort of community that I was looking for,” Roskens said. “I grew up riding with my mom and our trainers, [but I] didn’t get the experience of going to shows with a bunch of kids [my] age … having a community is something that I wouldn’t have had without coming here.”

Senior Isabel Tuckett, the captain of the dressage team, expressed a similar sentiment.

“I would consider the highs as not even the competing; it’s the team bonding and the camaraderie among the girls,” Tuckett said. “It’s nice to have such a supportive community of girls that are similar-minded.”

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Photo by Jennifer Tuckett | The Miami Student
For Tuckett, balancing academics with her commitment to the dressage team starts with setting realistic boundaries

The riders practice twice a week, starting in August and not finishing until May. Along with the frequent traveling every other weekend, balancing the equestrian team with academics proves to be a challenge for them.

For Tuckett, balancing her microbiology pre-med major with serving as captain of the dressage team starts with setting realistic boundaries.

“I don’t know if it’s as much of a balance or if it’s a sprint,” Tuckett said. “… I had to learn how to be very rigid in my time management and make sure that I had reasonable expectations for myself. I like to consider myself a high-achieving individual, and sometimes I get in over my head with what I think that I can do.”

Despite practicing at the same facility and traveling together, the three disciplines differ greatly in their style of horse riding, equipment and points system, among other things. For example, hunt seat riding uses a smaller saddle than western. Dressage and hunt seat are both English forms of riding, while western includes reining and rodeos. Hunt seat includes jumping, while dressage does not, and is moreso “ballet with horses,” according to Tuckett.

For junior hunt seat co-captain Anna Wilson, despite the differences, Miami riders are able to combine each disciplines’ attributes to become better horse riders.

“I think it’s cool that you can pull things from each discipline and apply it to something else,” Wilson said. “It makes you stronger as a whole … I feel like our team is pretty strong because we have such an interconnected system of the three disciplines.”

Long practice hours, rigid time management and team-bonding characterized the road to national qualification for each program this year. Sophomore Shelby Zimmerman, who rides for the western team and serves as the program’s service and fundraising chair, a highlight of the year was working with people who have a similar interest in horses. 

“I’ve had some of the best experiences just hanging out with friends,” Zimmerman said. “We’ve had fun memories throughout the tough. When we had that weird snowstorm in February, we had to go salt for an hour and a half and plow the sidewalks. The conditions outside weren’t great, but it was still great to do with people that you enjoy hanging out with because it made it a less sufferable experience.”

The IDA national competition begins on April 25, and the IHSA national competition for the hunt seat and western teams begins on May 3. 

Going in, the riders try not to hold expectations for themselves, but they know the amount of work and effort they’ve put in. All they have to do is prove themselves in Tryon. 

“I always have high expectations for myself,” Roskens said. “… I want to go and do the absolute best that I possibly can. I know what I’m capable of and what I want out of it, and I know that if I set myself up for success, I should be able to achieve it.”