Equestrian Club Puts Students in the Saddle

Team scores high in competitions

Celine Jaisaree

Celine Jaisaree

At most horse shows, riders arrive with the horses they’ve spent months working with, getting to know their every quirk and flaw.

But when the U of G Equestrian Club teams head to a show to compete against other schools, they don’t bring their horses with them. Some members don’t have horses to bring. Instead, each competitor is assigned a horse to ride by the group hosting the show. “We don’t even get to warm up the horse; that’s done by the host club,” explains club vice-president Celine Jaisaree. “You just have to get on the horse you are assigned and ride into the show ring. You have to figure the horse out pretty quickly – some are easy but some are tricky.” It also makes the rider’s skill and understanding of horses a bigger factor in the competition.

Jaisaree, a fourth-year psychology student, says the Equestrian Club was founded in 2002 because there was a significant number of students who had some riding experience and wanted to continue while at university. “It’s expensive to bring a horse here,” she says, “so a major goal has been to set up riding lessons at local stables and provide carpooling for people who want to go.” Lessons are available in a variety of disciplines, including hunter-jumper, western, dressage and eventing.

The team also hosts trivia nights and members-only fun riding competitions at the stables where the lessons are taught.

The team shows off its ribbons.

The equestrian team shows off its ribbons.

One group of 10 to 15 students from the club competes on the Ontario University Equestrian Association (OUEA) circuit, which hosts about six shows per year. Another group of 15 to 20 riders competes in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) events in the U.S., primarily in New York State. This circuit runs two shows over a weekend about four or five times a year.

“At many of the U.S. schools, the equestrian team is a varsity team and is funded by the school,” says Jaisaree. “They can be really intense in their training. We just go for fun but we do really well. At the IHSA we have consistently finished in the top six for the region.”

Last year the OUEA team won high-point team for the second year in a row, and the IHSA had several riders qualify for regionals. Jaisaree placed sixth over fences overall at the IHSA regionals last year.

Western riders don’t have an opportunity to compete against other schools in Ontario, but there is a separate circuit of competitions in the U.S. where the club sends a team. “They do reining and equitation,” says Jaisaree. “It’s a smaller group, but they have a lot of fun.”

Jaisaree grew up in Aurora, Ont., and started riding at a local riding stable when she was six. “I loved it and soon I started riding in horse shows and leasing horses so I could ride more often,” she says. As a U of G student, she found a private stable where she could take lessons at an advanced level. “I work there as well and get to ride some fantastic horses,” she says, adding, “I just don’t have time to ride every day.” Jaisaree rides English and competes primarily in hunter-jumper classes.

Not all the club members have Jaisaree’s depth of equestrian experience. “We have people who have never ridden before and decide this is the time to start, and they can sign up for beginner lessons,” she says. Beginners can compete in the horse shows as well.

Some of the members are students who have little equine experience but are hoping to become veterinarians. Their involvement in the club gives them a chance to work with horses and increase their understanding of these animals. “We also arrange clinics with experts on various aspects of horse care and horse health and trail rides or any other activities the members want,” Jaisaree adds.

To learn more about the club, check the website at http://www.guelphequestrian.ca/.