Taylor University offers a variety of teams and clubs students can join that offer opportunities for leadership development, enrichment, and enjoyment. For students interested in horseback riding, the Equestrian Team welcomes students both with and without experience. Students learn western and English riding and compete at their skill level in a stress-free and encouraging environment.
40 Years Strong
The Equestrian Team is entering its 40th year as a club sport at Taylor. Coach Jenny Schamber, who is also Assistant Director of the Counseling Center, has helped the team navigate the competitive season for the past three years.
Schamber, a rider since she was young, coaches a Western team and gives lessons to local community members and students at her ranch located just a few miles from Taylor. She also coaches the Taylor team on top of it all. Coaching the team allows her to enjoy the growth students experience while on the back of a horse.
“The most rewarding part is when they feel that success for what they've done and they can recognize those differences and their confidence in their riding abilities from when they started, even if they started as an intermediate student and gained some more advanced skills,” Schamber said. “No matter where they're at, just them experiencing that success is fun for me to watch.”
No Prior Experience Needed
Unlike most club sports, Taylor’s Equestrian Team does not require any prior experience, only an interest in learning more about horses and the betterment of themselves.
Junior Rachel Boyer, the team’s president, chose Taylor knowing it was a place she could continue to ride. Boyer, like Schamber, grew up riding, and she didn’t want that to end when she moved to college. She joined the team her freshman year and has competed ever since.
The team competes in shows with the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, the nation’s largest and longest-running collegiate horse-showing association. But athletes find that being on the team offers even more than a chance to compete. Not only does the time away from classes allow a mental break, but it also allows a chance for students to become more in tune with themselves.
“I’m a Marketing and Systems major, so my classes are a lot, and I have a really busy schedule,'' Boyer said. “I have to be able to ride for my mental sanity. The beautiful thing is it's not like a normal sport, where you'd have practice every day and a crazy long competing season. It's beautiful because it's chill enough where you can still ride and be a student and take classes seriously, but also have friendships and relationships outside of your team members.”
The Equestrian Team operates in two distinct fashions. First, their training season and competition season, also known as a showing season, are combined. Students train through the week and compete on weekends during both fall and spring semesters.
Second, competitions are broken up into classes or levels based on experience, so athletes compete against riders with similar abilities. Because the location provides the horses, you are assigned a horse at random to compete with, which allows a fair playing ground for all riders. As the season progresses, points won by each rider who places in their class are added up, and the higher the score, the more elite events the team can attend.
“Shows are always really fun because it gives us a chance where we have a longer period together and everybody’s rooting for each other,” Schamber said. “I get to know them more than their riding ability and their world on the back of a horse. I really having both the coaching experience of watching them and seeing the fruits of their labor, but also getting to know them past just their riding.”
Competing on a college equestrian team is cheaper than it would be outside of college. Horse show costs can add up quickly–caring for the horse, transportation and gear, showing fees, and more. The Taylor team, however, offers a more finance-friendly opportunity for those interested.
The team’s advisor and Taylor’s Director of Special Projects, Amanda Wilson, says the lower price makes it more readily available for students who are interested in learning to ride.
“Intercollegiate riding is exponentially less expensive than any other riding opportunities; it's a really beautiful path into horseback riding,” Wilson said. “Whereas to just go out and say ‘I want to start riding,’ you're going to hit many barriers. What we offer through the Equestrian Team is a reasonably-priced opportunity to learn how to ride and to be a part of a team that competes.”
Join the Team
For those considering joining the team but are unsure they have what it takes, Schamber says to simply “do it.”
“It can provide confidence-building, identity-formation, stress relief or a better understanding of what makes you anxious and how you can develop coping skills to combat some of those things,” Schamber said. “It's even more far-reaching than just growing in your riding skills. I really believe in it wholeheartedly. If you're on the fence, try it out; come take a lesson and then you’ll know.”
Boyer reiterates this point, stressing it doesn’t matter what your skill level, major, or year is, anyone is welcome.
“You don't have to have any riding experience,” Boyer said. “We've had people join that have literally never ridden a horse before, but they thought they were pretty, so they decided to join. You can join at any point—you honestly don't have to have any skill, any talent, any experience—you just have to have love and a want to ride.”
Want to know more about the Equestrian Team or sports you can get involved with? Find out more on our athletics page.