By Kaylynn Sherry
As a Senior who has been part of St. Andrews Varsity Hunter Seat team for all four years of my college career, I have noticed many positive factors of being part of this program. When I first joined the team as a freshman, I was rather nervous. Coming in as a young rider and joining a team of mainly juniors and seniors who were competing extremely well was rather nerve racking. That being said, horse show nerves were a big deal for me. I came into the team with a lot of horse showing experience, but being part of a team where points count not only towards you individually, but also your team was a big deal and a lot of pressure. Competition can be a very stressful, nerve racking, and a scary event for many riders, but being part of the St. Andrews Hunter Seat team has shown me that competing does not have to be stressful, it can be fun and positive experience.
A Positive Back Bone
One of the key aspects of having a positive, fun showing experience is the teams mindset and mood. The team for my senior year here has by far been one of the most positive, helpful, and happy teams I have experienced yet. AQHA published an article in 2018 that laid out a few key factors that help with horse showing nerves. One of the main factors is having friendly faces around you. I can contest to this, because the showing atmosphere this year has been so fun and upbeat. Having these positive team members that help you prepare before you walk into the arena, cheer you on, and then congratulate you after, make a huge difference in your own mood. I used to go into the show ring nervous and that would in return affect my riding, but having team members smiling and helping me, allows me to confidently walk into the ring and not only win, but also enjoy my ride as well. A positive team leads to a positive ride.
Relax and Breathe
Another factor that brings positive energy to a competitive team is finding time to relax and breathe. The Hunter Seat team does this in many ways such as having team workouts that allow for fun and fitness, occasional trail rides, and hacking in the field. After a competition, the team usually takes time to find something fun and relaxing to do as a destressing activity. This is very helpful and not only helps riders relax, but continues to bring those friendly faces to the barn and team. Sometimes you just need to relax, breathe, and enjoy the ride.
Friendships Beyond the Barn
One of the best things that this team has brought me are the friendships I have made. As a team, we will always have that friendly competition between us, but having those teammates who push you to get better are so important. We are a competitive team and yes we do need to relax, but we cannot forget we are here to win. For me, these friends who push me to ride better have become some of my best friends not only at the barn, but on campus as well. We laugh, cry, work, and celebrate together. This positively affects the atmosphere at the barn and during shows, which is so important. Having a team that is not only competitors, but friends is something everybody should experience in their showing careers. It truly changes your mood and drive. It allows you to celebrate when you win and work harder when you don’t.
The friendships built while competing and riding together are so genuine and healthy. College is a stressful place and being able to find those people you can find peace with are very important. Also, having those teammates that are not just friends with you at the barn, but on campus as well allows for the team to bond more and more. Most of us here at St. Andrews University come from all over the world, but I truly believe the friendships I have made on this team will last a life time.
A Friendly Competitor
When it comes to competition, we have all probably came across those riders who are either rude to their fellow competitors or just think they are better. The St. Andrews Hunter Seat team is in no way these people or team. After competing in IHSA for four years, I have come across riders and teams who have this bad attitude and it makes the show atmosphere more tense. St. Andrews Hunter Seat team has been praised many times for having friendly, good natured teammates who not only help our team, but help and support other teams as well. After the team competes at an away show, the whole team always goes and thanks the people that put it on as a way of showing appreciation and good sportsmanship.
One characteristic that the coaches for the Hunter Seat team strive to put into their riders is good sportsmanship. Whether you go into the ring and win a 1st place ribbon or win 6th place ribbon, you walk out the ring and collect your ribbon with a smile. Of course, if you have a bad ride you will most likely be upset, but you handle that after the show and not in front of other competitors and schools. Some riders will get off a horse and go to other people and bash the horse they rode or complain about the placing. This kind of attitude not only negatively affects your team, but also affects those riders that have to ride the horse next. Demonstrating good sportsmanship not only positively affects your team, but also affects the teams around you. St. Andrews Hunter Seat team has instilled good sportsmanship into me that will not only show in the riding, but also my everyday life.
Enjoy It While You Can
When you come into college as a freshman, it feels like you have all the time in the world. One day you will be trying out for the riding team and the next minute you are showing in your final home horse show. Enjoy your time out at the barn as much as you can, the program is amazing and cherish every horse show you get to compete in. Sooner or later the time will come for you to graduate and you will look back on all the amazing opportunities you experienced while being on the team and traveling with teammates. Yes, always have that winning attitude, but don’t make it all about winning. Enjoy your time, make memories that will last, meet new people, try new things, and most importantly have fun.
I see many people only focus on winning and when they graduate, they realized they missed some of the best parts about being part of the team that weren’t solely about winning. Of course, being a competitor is hard work and gets exhausting sometimes, but always try to find the bright side of situations and allow yourself to enjoy your time here at St. Andrews Equestrian Program, because it flies by. Smile, its college not everything will go exactly as planned, but the best part. Enjoy it!
A Thank You
Lastly, I would like to say a thank you to St. Andrews Equestrian Program for allowing my four years here at St. Andrews University to be some of the best and most rewarding years of my life. Being part of such a humble, happy team such as the Hunter Seat team has been a blessing that has allowed me to grow not only as a rider, but also as a person. Competition can really get to a person, but having this amazing team to compete with has allowed for such an amazing horse showing experience. The coaches and staff allow for a friendly, hardworking atmosphere to ride in. Not to forget our amazing horses that allow for an awesome and challenging experience during lessons and during horse shows as well. Being part of St. Andrews Hunter Seat team is not just about competition, it is about hard work, friendship, and family.
If you are contemplating joining one of the many teams here at St. Andrews, I strongly suggest you do. Yes, it will be hard work and challenging, but the experiences and friends you get out of it will be all worth it. Make the most of your time here at college, try new things, make new friends, and enjoy it!
Sincerely, a Senior Equestrian