Hello, everyone! My name is Janessa Morelli, and I'm a third year Biology major from Homer, NY. I'm involved in several clubs on campus, but I want to tell you about one of my favorites: The Equestrian Team.
About the Team
We are a co-ed, club-level sport at RIT, centered around social integration and collegiate competition with a focus on social interaction for those with a love of horses and riding, regardless of experience or financial status. We offer lessons for various skill levels, and engage in competitions, fundraising, social events, meetings, and many volunteer opportunities.
Being at the club level has both benefits and drawbacks. For example, because we are a club sport, members do not have to go through try-outs to determine who gets a spot on the team, as is the case in many traditional varsity sports. Every single person who wishes to participate can, regardless of skill level. This allows us to be inclusive of everyone who wishes to join. Being a club sport also results in a smaller time commitment than many varsity level sports. While we don't enjoy as much funding or time on horses as some varsity teams do, we have far more flexibility for those just entering the show world and finding their way in college. To compete in shows and be an active member, and allow you to vote and order clothes, you must take lessons at least once a week, but you are more than welcome to do more than that. We go to and host shows a few times per semester, and these take place on weekend days. This is typically Saturday for the English team, and Sunday for the Western team.
English vs. Western
We have two disciplines to choose from: English (Huntseat) and Western.
English riding is the type of riding that you traditionally see more of in the Olympics. While they engage in eventing, show jumping, and dressage, the competitions we attend as a team focus more on equitation (AKA your position on the horse) on the flat and over fences. English riders generally take 60-minute lessons at Lehman Farms.
Western riding is closer to what you might see in a cowboy movie (without the guns and looting, of course). It's more casual than English riding is, and the tack is heavier, due to the different riding style. This discipline is also based on equitation during competitions. Western riders take 60-minute lessons at The Homestead, with one lesson per week being required for showing, and one lesson every two weeks for non-showing members.
While most people typically stick to one discipline, some decide to take lessons and compete in both!
IHSA and Competition
Riders from both disciplines can choose to compete against other colleges through the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. Shows take place here at Lehman Farms, as well as at other colleges, including Cornell University and Alfred University. There are several divisions within these shows, meant to suit riders of different riding experience. Once a rider accumulates enough points by placing within their division, they move up to the next one. Beginning at the Novice division, riders have the opportunity to compete over fences, as well as on the flat.
• Beginner and Advanced Walk/Trot/Canter
• Novice Flat and Over Fences (2')
• Intermediate Flat and Over Fences (2'3"-2'6")
• Open Flat and Over Fences (2'6"-3')
• Intermediate I & II
• Open Reining
The IHSA allows riders of all skill levels to compete at the regional, zone, and national levels. If you've never shown before, this is a great way to start! We do not require you to own your own horse. At shows, a horse will be randomly drawn for you to ride. Often, tip sheets are given so you can get a little bit of information about the horse. Before you compete, you'll hop on the horse, adjust your stirrups, and you're good to go! It's a great way to gain confidence, and get experience riding different horses.
Why You Should Join!
I have made so many friends through this team. I have never met a more supportive group of people in my life, and learning to be a better rider has given me so much confidence. Getting ready for shows with my teammates (which we affectionately coin "Boot Parties"), going to events with them, and gaining confidence in this sport has been so beneficial to me during my first two years here. We have a blast together, and I couldn't recommend it enough, even if you've never touched a horse in your life.