Minn. Equestrian Club gallops on

The team currently has almost 40 people competing.

by Emily Cutts

With more members and more consistent coaching, the University of Minnesota Equestrian Club is seeing better results.
The season started back in September, and two members have spent the last few months accumulating the points they need to contend on a national scale. They succeeded and will head the Intercollegiate Horse Show AssociationâÄôs national competition in May.
Emily Walker and Jaime Speicher will represent the University in two events, both in the highest class of competition.
âÄúIt wasnâÄôt super surprising qualifying for regional riders because I put in so much work, but I was pretty surprised for qualifying at zones,âÄù Speicher, a first-time national competitor, said.
âÄúZonesâÄù is the level of competition after regionals and before nationals.
Like many club members, SpeicherâÄôs fondness for horses doesnâÄôt necessarily coincide with her major. But the University of St. Thomas accounting and entrepreneurship senior has been riding for years. She began at summer camp and rode all through high school. After graduating she missed the sport so she decided to continue on the collegiate level.
Incoming Equestrian Club President Megan Tervo, a University of Minnesota finance and accounting sophomore, joined just for the fun of it.
âÄúI just fell in love with it. When I was younger I was one of those girls who begged my parents for a pony,âÄù Tervo said. âÄúItâÄôs really interesting because we have almost every college represented in our club, so many different majors and all of our girls from so many different backgrounds.âÄù
The varied majors allow for a unique club experience. Neither of the team members going to the national competition are University students. Speicher attends St. Thomas while Walker is a freshman at Hamline University.
Students within the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities âÄî Augsburg College, Hamline University, Macalester College, St. Catherine University and the University of St. Thomas âÄî are allowed to compete with the University.
The club is fairly new and has started gaining popularity the past two years. The team currently has almost 40 people competing, according to Laura Bunke, who competes in both hunt seat and western âÄî two different styles of riding.
The club is divided into those two styles and is comprised mostly of women, although there are two male members who compete.
Experience ranges from member to member, but all those who compete are dedicated to the club. Members travel to Stillwater, Minn., to train on a weekly basis.
Because the University does not have horses the club can use, they train at the barns of their coaches. A hunt seat coach, who trains horses professionally, was hired this season. The western team will get its coach next year.
One issue the team faces is its ineligibility in becoming a club sport because of the UniversityâÄôs insurance policy, which states equestrian sports arenâÄôt covered.
Because the group doesnâÄôt receive funding, all expenses come out of pocket, with members paying for lessons, coaches and competition fees. Joining the club and competing costs $50 per member, but that doesnâÄôt include the travel expenses competitors must also pay.
More fundraising efforts are in the works for next semester. The group will be working this spring at the American Quarter Horse Association Corporate Challenge, a horse show at the Minnesota State Fair grounds.
The group will also be focusing more on recruitment. At the beginning of this school year they participated in the activities fair and Welcome Week to try and bring in more riders.
Speicher said that with a larger team they are likely to do better. That has proven true this year as two riders head to nationals. Rankings are better as well, with the two different riding teams âÄî hunt seat and western âÄî ranking second and fourth, respectively, in the region.
âÄúWeâÄôve started to get a lot more serious in the past two years,âÄù Bunke said. âÄúFor the first time we have actual coaches who are well-known in the equestrian team world, and weâÄôre starting to make a name for ourselves.âÄù