In my initial search for colleges, one of my main criteria was the presence of an equestrian team; if the school did not have a team, I wasn't going to apply. This seemed a bit shortsighted to most of my friends and teachers, but I knew that participating on an intercollegiate riding team would be an important part of my college life. Now that I have spent over two years on the Dartmouth College Equestrian Team, I am happy to say that I was right.
In high school, I was lucky enough to ride at a barn, New Canaan Mounted Troop in New Canaan, Connecticut, that was home to approximately 100 girls and 25 very special school horses. It was through this organization that I learned about riding and horses, and most importantly, I made many friends who are still big parts of my life.
Horses have always seemed to foster a strong and unique bond among those who love and ride them. I found this to be true at Troop, and I am also finding it in college. However, because of the nature of the IHSA and the fact that you ride different horses every weekend and then for only a few minutes each, I have found that the individual animals play a smaller role. The main source of my enjoyment of the sport is the team environment, which is new to so many of the students.
Horseback riding has always been viewed as an individual sport, based on the partnership forged between one horse and one rider. However, in the IHSA, riding becomes a truly cooperative team sport. Instead of driving to horse shows alone with your trainer with a trailer in tow, you are surrounded by your friends, all piled into a van at 5:00 a.m. on your way to compete as a team. Your individual ribbons eventually take a back seat to the team standings.
For most students on an intercollegiate team, this isn't riding as they knew it in high school. They were used to riding their own horses and/or ponies, in their own saddles, with their own trainers, with the specific goal of winning ribbons. The intercollegiate experience is a huge adjustment for most, but I have found that it's for the better. I think that the camaraderie provides team members with an instant support network and friendships based on a common interest that become stronger and closer with each passing show and each passing season.
Whether or not I ever make it to the IHSA nationals, when I look back on my time at Dartmouth, my commitment to and accomplishments on the equestrian team will be among the highlights. I attribute this feeling to the friends I have made because of this team and the experiences we have all shared and will continue to share.
Sara Glazer is a junior at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. She competes in Open Equitation and is the one of the co-captains of the equestrian team.