Equestrian Club

Not exactly.

Simpson, a third-year from Eleanor Roosevelt College, is co-captain of UCSD’s Club Equestrian team with ERC junior Taylor Coe and Warren College senior Monica O’Mahony. She has been riding horses since age eight and continues to ride and show horses as part of the team here on campus.

The team welcomes all skill levels, from riders who have competed in the Grand Prix to those whose only experience is a guided horseback tour at a dude ranch.

“The best thing about the club is spending time with horses,” O’Mahony said. “We’re all just passionate about horses.”

As a club sport, Equestrian is part of the International Horse Show Association rather than NCAA athletics, but they compete against a number of top schools in Southern California and Arizona, including UCLA, USC, Cal Poly Pomona, Arizona State and University of Arizona.

The team’s approximately 35 members practice once a week at Tartan Farms stable in Del Mar. During Fall and Winter Quarters, the club competes against other area schools: Last year, the team sent seven riders to Zones at Stanford and four riders to Nationals.

“We haven’t made it to nationals as a team for a little bit, but that’s our plan this year,” Simpson said.

Riders compete in one of two styles: Western (cowboy hats and flashy tricks) or English (khaki breeches and classy dressage). English is apparently much more popular in San Diego than Western — about 25 people on the team choose the former.

“English and Western never compete against each other because they are two completely different realms of competing, kind of like within the realm of hockey, [where] there is ice hockey and roller hockey,” equestrian team member and Revelle College sophomore Morgan Atiken-Young explained.

Dues for the year are $385, not including $20 to register for a show and $45 for each lesson. To save on costs, the team borrows horses for practice and shares horses for competitions. Members also bring two or three of their own horses to competitions to add to the pool of horses that riders can be assigned to for each event.

Training for competitions includes practicing specific positions (like jumping position) – and a rider can get knocked from first to sixth place in a competition if a horse breaks gait (walks when it should trot) or if the rider’s foot falls out of a stirrup.

“Because you don’t know the horses well, you pick a random horse at a show, and it can get very frustrating because you are a good rider, but sometimes it’s just hard to show it,” O’Mahony said. “Our sport is very different because it’s 50 percent us, 50 percent the horse.”

The team meets weekly in a RIMAC Conference room to schedule upcoming competitions, as well as to plan social events and volunteer opportunities like line dancing and bull-riding.

As the team’s motto goes“Work hard, play hard, ride harder.”

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