BY JAMES STEMPLE, STAFF WRITER
Few people would have the courage to get up on a horse and compete against others, but the Mason equestrian club does just that.
The equestrian club is a co-ed program that competes across Virginia in various horse shows. Club members practice weekly with their coaches in order to compete.
The term “equestrian” is a broad term to describe all horse activity; however, Mason’s club rides and competes on the horses.
The competitions are run by the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association. The club competes against 11 other schools in the area and in some local shows around Virginia.
The shows themselves are different than most, as the club “[picks] horses by random and does not get a practice round,” Alina Parikh, president of the club, said. “It’s all about rider knowledge and rider control.”
Like many sports, equestrian relies on a point system to determine the winner. The higher you place, the more points you score. So winning first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth means each team receives 7, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 point(s) respectively.
The winner is decided by a judge, who evaluates based on the knowledge, control and style of the rider.
There are also different “classes” for each show, and each class gets its own judge to determine its winner.
The club practices a style of horse riding called “English Hunter Discipline,” in which the rider is judged on style.
“A big part of good riding is having good balance. It keeps you in the saddle pretty much. You want to make sure you have good posture with your heels down in the stirrups,” Parikh said on riding in this style.
Parikh said English Hunter Discipline is often judged by “who is the fanciest?”
The head coach of the hunt team, Sue Buscher, owns and operates Timely Manor, which is the barn that the club rides at during practice. Practices are when the riders fine-tune their style and knowledge of the English Hunter Discipline. Tara Applegate coaches the Western-style team, Western being a another style practiced by some of the team members, and also serves as an assistant coach to the hunt club.
They are accompanied by Susan Wolf, the other assistant coach, and Mark Buscher, who helps teach lessons.
All of the coaches have been known to help new and experienced riders improve how they ride.
“All of our coaches are very skilled teachers who have been able to make riders like myself become better riders and help us to figure out what we need to work on. Sue has been a truly amazing coach and has helped us to become great riders,” Parikh said.
Though the club receives a sizeable budget from the school, they also organize several fundraisers. The fundraisers help fund various causes, from trips to the Rolex Kentucky Three-day Event to the victims of Hurricane Matthew.
Those interested in the sport are recommended to take horsemanship classes offered by Mason.
“[The class] will teach you the basics of riding and horsemanship and will help you transition into being a part of the club,” Parikh said. “We take riders of all levels—even beginners who have not ridden very much before.”