The Texas A&M Eventing Team drove for two days from College Station, TX to Lexington, Va. to contest the 2017 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship at the Virginia Horse Trials. With two full teams competing, they finished with one team in the ribbons and as a squad won the highly sought after Spirit Award. From morning ‘yell practice’ to wearing matching overalls to giving one another a leg up in the barns, Texas A&M showed school pride and team work to the highest degree.
The Intercollegiate Championship swelled from 10 teams representing 10 schools in its first year to 21 teams representing 17 schools at the event last week. The USEA’s Intercollegiate program is fast growing, with new teams being formed every semester.
Texas A&M had the longest haul to the Championship, and they’ve been focused on preparing for the competition over the last year. On Saturday, before the announcement of the Spirit Award winner, EN sat down with the President of the Texas A&M Eventing Team, Kate Boggan, to learn more about their journey.
Tell us about the Texas A&M Eventing team. When was it formed and what does it mean to be a member?
We were officially a recognized student organization last January, and our organization has about 32 members. We wanted it to be a social opportunity that supports a team because eventing is not that big in Texas. You don’t have to own a horse to join our club, you just have to think the sport is interesting.
We try to get people involved even if they can’t actually compete on their own. We’ve traveled to local shows together and we have social events like a Christmas party and overalls painting party. It’s been a great way not just to bring all the eventers at our school together but also create new eventers. We have a girl here this weekend who has been a hunter/jumper all her life. She had never done an event until she joined the team and now she’s here at Championships.
We had a German exchange student join our program and we have a couple members that have more than one horse, so she was able to get some time riding on other members’ horses. That’s worked out a lot. One of our girls, Jessie, had a major surgery on her leg and it’s been a long process healing. There was a chunk of time she couldn’t ride her own horse and there was another member whose horse was in full time training, so while her horse was gone she rode Jessie’s horse.
That’s been one really cool thing that I’ve seen about the club is there is always a way to get people on horses even if they don’t necessarily have access to their own. We’ve really tried to make it a very inclusive, very inviting club.
When did Texas A&M decide they were going to make the 2017 USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Championship a goal?
Last year. I fell in love with the event when I was here last year as an intern with USEA. I thought it was the coolest thing seeing all these colleges come together and represent their school. When I saw this I said there was no way we were not coming the next year.
A&M has a bunch of equestrian programs. We have our equestrian team who just won Nationals, we have a men’s and women’s polo team who pretty much always wins Nationals. We have a stock horse team, a horsemanship program that goes around the state and teaches clinics, a rodeo team. Most of them are club sports the way we are but there are lots of different horse sports and they are all very active and involved.
A&M comes with a reputation of being very horsey, and if we’re representing A&M, we’ve got to go to Championships. We’ve got eight competitors here plus five other club members who came along as our cheerleaders.
How did you fundraise for the trip?
We’ve been fortunate to receive some monetary sponsorships and we’ve done a lot of fundraising throughout the year with the intention to use that money to pay for travel expenses. We did a used tack sale as our big fundraiser, and that went a long way for us.
We asked for donations of used tack, and we all went through and cleaned out our trailers and found stuff that we had been hoarding. We took the tack sale to a bunch of local schooling shows and our team challenges.
We have a couple former students who wanted to make a donation and some monetary sponsors, too. Pyranha fly spray was the biggest contributor to our travel funds and we’re so grateful for their support.
What expenses could the team cover for the student riders?
We were able to pay for all of our hotel rooms during the event. We also paid for hotel rooms and all of the horses’ stabling on our overnight stops in Alabama. Everyone is also keeping all of their gas receipts and we’ll be able to reimburse members for most of their gas.
Your team has a big sponsor banner displayed in the College Town stabling. How did you go about procuring sponsors?
It was very helpful that I interned at the USEA while we were in the process of getting this team started because it was a lot of motivation and I got to see how the USEA did a lot of their sponsorships. Kate Lokey, USEA’s Director of Programs and Marketing, walked me through how a lot of the sponsorships work. Shelby Allen, USEA’s Communications Specialist at the time and a former member of the Eventing Team at UGA, also told me how UGA did their sponsorships. So I had a lot of good mentoring over the summer.
It was hard because when we were asking for sponsors we really hadn’t done anything yet. But I tried to push our good qualities and what we could do for companies and sponsors. I sent out a ton of emails and I got way more rejections than I did acceptances, but we have 16 sponsors.
Let’s talk about Texas A&M’s amazing school spirit.
We are going hard for the Spirit Award! A&M has a reputation to uphold. We’re known for being a very traditional, very spirited school. We’re going all out for that. We weren’t quite sure how we would fare riding against all these East Coast teams, but we were going for the Spirit Award.
Texas A&M doesn’t have pep rallies, they have “yell practice”. Here’s the Texas A&M Eventing Team practicing their yells!
Posted by Virginia Horse Trials on Sunday, May 28, 2017
Aggie Spirit invading the collegiate championships in Virginia!!!
Posted by Candy Neal Baker on Friday, May 26, 2017