The third annual USEA Intercollegiate Championship will be held May 24-27 at the Virginia Horse Trials in Lexington, Virginia, and eventing teams from colleges and universities across the country are working hard to prepare in the homestretch. We are pleased to share this report from Alex Peterson, Vice President of Clemson Eventing Team, the defending National Intercollegiate Eventing Champions.
After hugs and photos (lots of photos!), the Clemson Eventing Team parted ways at the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington last May with renewed confidence and enthusiasm. We had just won the 2017 USEA Intercollegiate Championships!
Busy summers lay ahead for all of us — college internships, a study abroad in Spain, first days of professional careers, home state competitions, a Bromont entry and an AEC registration. Our riders worked hard and competed plenty over the next three months. Then come mid-August, we loaded up our horses and traveled back to Clemson, South Carolina, where all 37 members enjoy the unique camaraderie of studying and riding together.
This year our President, April Crawford, and Events Coordinator, Molly Micou, started us off with an amazing jump clinic right in our own backyard at Stoneridge Equestrian Center with three-star competitor Jody Hemry. In mid-October we invited the eventing team at University of South Carolina at Aiken to join us for a two-day clinic with Olympian Stephen Bradley, hosted by Full Gallop Farm in Aiken. Next we enjoyed an incredible dressage clinic with Laurens Bissell at Scott Hills Equestrian Center in Pendleton. This was closely followed up with a jumping clinic taught by Ricardo Villa, international show jumping champion and Pan American competitor, hosted by Riverbend Equestrian Park in Greenville. In March, we were invited to join USC Aiken’s team to work with four-star competitor and trainer Caitlin Silliman during a two-day clinic held at Paradise Farm in Aiken.These clinics are imperative to our training as eventers, especially since we function without the assistance of a team coach.
The clinics help us prepare as individual riders to compete as a team at the Chattahoochee Hills team trials, the Pine Top team challenge and the year-end Intercollegiate Eventing Championships at Virginia Horse Trials. Mounted clinics, bimonthly meetings, fundraisers, competitions and team dinners all help to build team fellowship and friendship. Emily Martin, one of our newest team members, had this to say: “Coming into the eventing team as a freshman has been one of the highlights of my college experience so far. These riders completely took me under their wing and welcomed me into the group, and they’re now some of my closest friends here at school. The support from each and every rider pushes us forward as a team.”
No one agrees with Emily more than our fearless CIET President, April Crawford. Although April’s horse, Lucy, was injured and couldn’t compete in last year’s championships, that didn’t stop April from supporting her team. She trailered two team members and their horses to Virginia, wore a tiger onsie all weekend, worked in the vet box for our one-star riders, braided, groomed and cheered us to victory! “I had planned on becoming really involved in the team, and, boy, did I,” says April. “I have met my best friends on this team. Not only are they an inspiration for my riding, but they are also my rocks when it comes to the hard weeks of school.”
Throughout the school year, our team hosts fundraising events to help offset the costs of clinics, competitions and our annual trip to the Land Rover Three Day Event in Lexington, Kentucky. We all pull together to host a fall and a spring combined test for area riders wishing to gain experience at the lower levels.
Planning, marketing, organizing and hosting are completely the responsibility of team members; everyone gets involved. During the winter holidays, we create and sell peppermint wreaths to area barns and riders. One of our most successful fundraisers is selling tacos in downtown Clemson at midnight on the weekends. We have something for everyone to get involved in for the team.
Just as the collegiate level of interest has grown nationally in the sport of eventing, our Clemson Intercollegiate Eventing Team interest has more than tripled our membership since its inception in 2004. We now have 37 members from as far away as Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland and Washington, DC. Equestrian athletes are looking for colleges and universities where they can continue to compete in the sport of eventing while earning their degrees. There is nothing more exciting than competing in the sport you love while representing your college team!
Just as Sarah Pyne, a senior member of the team that has participated in both of the Intercollegiate Championships. This will be Sarah’s final competition riding and representing Clemson University. She says, “I’ve made friends that have nothing to do with my major and that helps me get my mind off the academics. I definitely think without an eventing team, it would have changed my college experience. It’s made my college experience that much stronger. I’ll stay in touch with these teammates forever.”