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Club Spotlight: Hofstra University Equestrian Club They’re not just horsing around

Club Spotlight: Hofstra University Equestrian Club They’re not just horsing around

Photo Courtesy of @hofstraequestrian on Instagram

After years of fluctuation in membership, the Hofstra University Equestrian Club (HUEC) is beginning to make their presence felt again on campus. A member of the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA), HUEC provides an opportunity for students to get off campus and bond with the animals and each other.

“I love horses. I’ve always loved riding and it wasn’t something I wanted to give up for four years while I was at college. Trying to find a barn near a campus that didn’t have an equestrian team seemed like a hassle, so I wanted go to one that has a team on campus,” said junior biology major and HUEC president Katie Rozek.

HUEC not only helps its members prepare to compete but also teaches them how to connect with horses. The team practices at Country Farms in Medford, New York, and although its location is far from Hofstra, the distance gives the members an opportunity to connect on the drive there.

“I am a transfer student from Suffolk Community College and I’m a commuter, so I don’t know many people on campus. [HUEC is] definitely something that [allowed me] to meet people I’ve never met before,” said senior mass media studies major and secretary of HUEC Alyssa Burke. “We’ve connected over so many things; it’s great finding friends that actually enjoy the same thing that I do.”

Led by Coach Debbie Rittereiser, the lessons allow the students to develop their skills for competitions and bond with the horses.

“When we get there, we get to tack up the horse ourselves and there’s a lot more ground work in addition to just riding; you get to learn how to handle horses from the ground, which is very important, not only for your skills in general but bonding with the horses and learning how they work,” Rozek said. “You learn a lot more when you spend those couple of minutes per lesson on the ground working with the horse than you do just grabbing the horse from somebody and riding for a little bit then handing it off again.”

The bonding with the horses can often be therapeutic for the students. “It’s all about having fun. [Coach Debbie] doesn’t like us to be stressed out and wants it to be a fun experience because it’s our way to escape school and work,” Burke said.

Competitions are open to a variety of skill levels. HUEC competes in IHSA Zone 2, Region 4 competitions. The IHSA requires every school to either host or co-host a competition, and the riders will be randomly assigned a horse to compete with at the host barn. The quality of the horse can play an important role in a rider’s performance, making IHSA a unique kind of competition because in other competitions riders often use horses they are familiar with. This kind of organization makes it so the competition is about the riders’ skill set and not the quality of the horse.  

“It’s a really odd way to do it, but it’s really an attempt to level the playing field because one of the things you have to be concerned about going to normal shows is that if somebody has a $40,000 horse, it’s going to obviously do really well compared to somebody who is riding a rescue horse. [This method] takes the horse out of the equation and you’re really judging the person’s riding abilities,” Rozek said.

Members compete individually and as a team to achieve the team’s overall ranking. Individuals called point riders are selected to represent the team and collect the points for the group as a whole throughout the competition. With a wide range of competitions available, the IHSA truly tests the collegiate riders’ abilities by having them ride different horses in each competition.

Whether you are a first-time rider or have years of experience, the team encourages you to give it a try if you are interested. 

“If you don’t know how to ride, it’s a great way to learn how to ride. Everybody is welcome; we definitely encourage the people who have never ridden before, it’s very therapeutic,” Burke said. “I encourage everybody to join because you get to connect with an animal that is completely different than you; and once you establish that connection, it is absolutely amazing.”

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