More Than a Team: Eventing at Randolph-Macon College

Since its establishment in 2014, the USEA’s Intercollegiate Eventing Program has flourished, with participating colleges and universities now numbering nearly three dozen. Among them is Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, whose eventing team president Sydney Guy kindly shared with us this essay about her experience.

“I believe the team we have here at RMC is truly unique and is the main reason my college years have been so great. Eventing is a tough sport on its own, let alone trying to be competitive both in the ring and in the classroom. However, the friendships being made through the intercollegiate format and the memories being made are worth every minute of it,” she says.

In addition to serving as team president, Sydney is a Junior majoring in Psychology and minoring in Elementary Education and Special Edition, a school tour guide and a member of the Delta Zeta Sorority. Learn more about the RMC Eventing Team here.  

Coach Ashley Adams and I at the start box at my first event in the Intro on my horse Captain Bleu. Photo by Sandy Guy.

It’s hard to put into words the many and sweeping ways that being a part of the collegiate eventing team at Randolph-Macon College has impacted my life. I arrived as a freshman in the fall of 2017 with my trusted partner, a one-eyed champ that I had fox hunted and enjoyed doing some local dressage shows with. I assumed the hunt seat team would be where we would fit. The thought of eventing gave me chills and I greatly admired those who fearlessly competed in the sport from a distance. Never would I have dreamed that two years later I would be leading one of the greatest groups of friends and riders a person could imagine and have a pretty darn good USEA record under my belt as well.

Upon my arrival at the prestigious facility that the college had recently acquired, I was immediately drawn to the energy and enthusiasm of not only the newly arrived team coach, Ashley Adams, but that of the other riders on the event team including senior Emily Digney and junior Malden Lesesne who took me under their wing. They were ever-present figures at the barn, hacking out together and watching each other’s’ lessons. I wanted to know more! I immediately asked Dana to meet with me about the possibility of taking a few eventing lessons and from that moment on, she has supported me in my journey as an eventer. Dana works tirelessly for this team and I have been fortunate enough to experience this on a personal level. If it was not for Dana, this would never have been a possibility for me.

One lesson with Ashley and I was hooked. Despite the fact that I frequently fell off multiple times in my lessons, I was eager to keep at it due to Ashley’s contagious vibes of perseverance and bravery. From the moment I met Ashley, I trusted her in that if she thought I could do it, then it must be possible. Regardless of my personal fears, I knew she would not let me do something that was unsafe. I have never felt more supported by someone (besides my immediate family) like I have by Ashley. She has been a true role model for me in all aspects of life and is the best example of practicing what you preach. She embodies everything it means to be coach, a horsewoman, a leader, a yellow jacket, and a true friend. The relationships we have built through this team and the sport of eventing is something that I will truly cherish forever and has impacted every aspect of my life forever.

High-fiving my teammate Morgyn Johnson as we head to our respective events at VAHT last spring.

Ashley gave me the confidence to try things WAY outside my comfort zone. That fall, I competed in the Intro at Loch Moy and came home with a ribbon. And the best part was that my teammates were there every step of the way (literally — I had teammates next to every fence on my course cheering for me). In the blink of an eye I went from the girl that cried over a cross rail, to the girl that is coasting around the Beginner Novice with the biggest smile on my face. Within a year following my conversion to the sport of eventing, Ashley had helped me find an equine partner that could help me move up to the USEA levels and Renegade became a part of the Guy family. She knew exactly what I needed and used her connections to make sure I had the perfect partner to build my confidence while competing and still be able to excel academically.

The team also continued to grow with more great riders choosing RMC because of the eventing opportunities it provided and the value of teamwork we embodied. It was exciting to be a part of this growth and to see our goals and dreams grow along with it.

This past spring my teammates, Morgyn Johnson, Katherine Delaney, Kendall Benner, and I sat down together with our team coach Ashley and director Dana, and made a plan, created a vision for where we wanted RMC Eventing to go, and took action. We recognized that our chosen sport of eventing came along with many physical, mental, and financial demands, especially for college students. We created a plan to conquer these challenges and gain the resources ourselves in order to succeed. We spelled out our fundraising goals and the things we wanted to put that money toward. We created a vision of the type of team we aspired to be and typed out the RMC No Bulls#$t Guide to a Successful Event Team to hold each other accountable.

Myself and my new partner, Renegade, at Tryon H.T. last spring. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Over the summer we held a clinic with Ashley donating 100% of her instruction fees. We were able to raise several thousand dollars. We followed that this fall with a horse trailer wash where team members and families all worked hard, washing and vacuuming more than 20 truck and trailer rigs in one day! In addition, we have worked hard soliciting support and sponsorships from both individuals and companies. All of our efforts have paid off and we have raised $10,000 within this first semester which exceeded our expectations five times over. With these funds, we have purchased a new dressage arena, custom stall guards, bridle racks, a Pixio video camera, and we have a lot more to come! In addition, the college is investing more into the facility by resurfacing our arena with technical footing to support our equine athletes.

If you see us out and about at competitions, you will see a team united in our love of the sport and each other. To ride across the finish line to a crowd of cheering friends, or prepare for your show jumping with a team of people tacking up your horse, or having teammates who are running through the course with you and shouting encouragements of “you got this!” is a feeling that just cannot be replicated. I believe what we have at RMC is truly unique. Growing up, my parents always told me that “you are who you associate with.” From the moment I met my teammates, I knew that they were the type of people I wanted to surround myself with. They would push me to a higher standard and that is exactly what has happened. Teamwork is a core value of our team and inspired our team motto that “you are only as strong as your teammate’s last ride.” This team has provided me with some of the best friends I will ever make and they have helped me through the toughest times in the ring, in the classroom, and in all other aspects of life. I can never put into words how much this team means to me.

Are we proud of the fact that our small school consistently beats the powerhouse state schools? Yes! However, what really motivates us is the day-in and day-out of caring for our horses, learning from our equine partners, learning from each other and our amazing coach, and the knowledge that we are building friendships that will last well beyond our college years. It is always a great day to be a YJ!

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