Not many people would associate bulls with horses, but the USF Equestrian Club has brought the two together.
The sports club is made of members from the USF English and Western riding teams, as well as other horse-loving students looking for a place to meet fellow horse fanatics.
“I played a lot of sports when I was younger and, to me, horseback riding was the biggest challenge…,” said Amanda Benedict, a biology student and president of the Equestrian Club. “With my horse, it’s a new thing every day. I never get bored of it. Everything else I got bored of.”
One of the primary purposes of the club is to bring the English and western riding teams together. The two practice and show separately, making the Equestrian Club the only way for team members to meet up and work together.
“We all do separate stuff, but with the club we try to find common ground to be able to do something together,” said Alyssa Alers, a junior majoring in agricultural engineering and the vice president of the Equestrian Club.
The club hosts free trail rides for all of its members, including those who don’t ride with either of the teams. Members also volunteer with Quantum Leap Farm, an organization that gives disabled adults and children the opportunity to ride and interact with horses.
“It’s a really good opportunity to meet people that have common interests and it’s hard to meet people at a big school like this, and it’s harder to find somebody that rides horses,” Alers said. “It was really hard for me to find people I actually get along with and who understand what it’s like.”
Equestrian Club meetings also give interested students the opportunity to get more information and sign up for the riding teams so they can attend riding lessons and begin competing for the school. Alers said students don’t need to have any prior riding experience to join one of the teams.
“We have girls that have started from scratch, and just started going to the trainer and they learn from there,” Alers said. “I know a lot of people are scared of horses … because they’re so big but I don’t think people should be scared to try something new.”
The western and English riding teams compete through the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, the IHSA. Riders who earn enough points in competition can qualify for regionals, zones then nationals.
The Equestrian Club is free to join, but students who want to ride for one of the teams have to pay to compete. English shows can cost upward of $100 while Western shows start at $20. Students also need to pay for lessons, which are offered at a discount through their team. Both teams provide riders with horse tack, including saddles and bridles, and the western riding team even provides its riders with show clothes.
“Creating that bond with your horse is unlike any other sport,” Benedict said. “Yeah, you have teammate interaction, but being able to control an animal that large and tell them what you want to do and to have this mutual agreement … I don’t think there’s anything else like that.”