5C Equestrian Team Rides Together

Hold your horses: the equestrian team is here. 

The 5C Claremont Colleges Equestrian Team
(CET) recently finished an impressive season, sending two members to the
postseason Zone 8 finals at the Stanford Red Barn April 4-5.

The club team is
a part of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) Zone 8, which encompasses universities in the western half of the country. Within the Zone, the team
is in Region 2, which is comprised of teams from Southern California and Arizona.
Comprised of about 30 recreational and show riders, CET has 10 members
registered with IHSA and brings around four to eight show team riders to
each competition. 

CET competes in
five shows during the IHSA regular season, which lasts from October to March.
Riders are placed into divisions based on past riding experience determined by
an IHSA placement test. Within these classes, riders can compete in one of
three fences divisions and/or one of six flat divisions. In the fences divisions,
the rider and a randomly assigned horse jump over obstacles between two and
three feet high. In the flat divisions, riders are judged on their form, or equitation. 

“Everything is based on equitation, which is
the way that you ride,” Mattie Toll PO ’17 said. “[Judges] are trying to see
how well you can adjust to a new ride and how well you can figure out the
horse that you’re on, which you have to do very quickly since the horses are
assigned randomly, and you don’t get any warm-up time.”

Toll, who will
be co-captain of the team next year, was one of the members who qualified for
Zone 8 finals two weeks ago after pointing out of her division and winning her class
at the arch 8 Regionals. Sophie Todd PZ ’15, a five-semester member of CET and one
of the team’s top scorers, was the other member who made it to Zones after
placing second in her novice flat division at Regionals. Todd also took on the
full responsibilities of captain this fall when co-captain Rebecca Herrera PZ ’16
was abroad.

For Toll,
competing in an even playing field is one of the best parts of the collegiate
equestrian experience. Instead of riding horses that could be bought for hundreds of thousands
of dollars, riders choose horses randomly out of a hat in IHSA shows, which
makes the riders’ own adaptive horsemanship skills stand out.

“In a situation
like this where [what horse you ride] is randomized, results are generally very
reflective of how hard you work to personally improve and what opportunities you make for yourself, so
being successful in this kind of environment is very rewarding,” she said.

When the team is
not competing at shows, members work on their equitation and jumping skills
during weekly lessons at a nearby stables. With these lessons and a weekly team
dinner, CET is much more than a group of individuals riding for their own
results; it is a team that is supportive of one another with a strong sense of
community.

“It’s very
supportive, which is cool because [equestrian] is an individual sport, but we
make a team out of it, which is important because the sport is individually-oriented
a lot of the time,” Kailey Lawson PO ’17 said.

Lawson, who will
take on the role of team manager next year, has been riding since the age of
five and competed in the open division this season, which is the highest level
of competition. Even though team members face top competition on individual levels, Lawson
highlighted the team dynamic of CET. Though the team will spend the bulk of their day at a show, only a fraction of that time is spent in the saddle. 

“It’s very much
about being a cohesive unit and doing stuff as a team,” Lawson said. “We get to
a horse show at seven in the morning and leave at five at night, and during
that time you may only spend a half-hour riding. The rest of the time is spent
getting the other girls ready or making sure they know their course …When you’re
about to go, someone will go up with you, and someone’s always there when you
come out of the gate at the end.”

Toll spoke to similar feelings regarding the team dynamic, explaining how the riders rely on one another during competition for support in place of a coach. 

“It’s a totally
different environment from regular horse shows; it’s much more collaborative,”
Toll said. “This year we didn’t really have a trainer with us at shows, so we
had to coach each other most of the time, which fostered a sense of teamwork as
well.”

This supportive
environment helps to make the shows less about winning and losing and more
about having fun as a team. Lawson discussed a running CET joke that the team
tries to ‘nail the rainbow,’ or get ribbons of each color. This example further
indicates the noncompetitive, collaborative mindset of CET members. Toll also mentioned
the team car rides, which she said were some of the best parts of the show
weekends.

Despite fielding
an incomplete team in most shows, CET fared well in most of their events, even
coming in third place as a team at two regular shows and earning fifth place overall
in the region of 14 teams. With hopes of filling each division next year and with
many riders returning, CET could become one of the top teams in the region—not only
in terms of camaraderie, but also in competition.

“In terms of the
entire team, I absolutely love this group,” Toll said. “This has been one of
the best parts of my college experience. As our Claremont team fills out and as
we find more structure and training, we’re hoping to become more of a competitive
force as a team, but of course we’ll always prioritize the community aspect.”

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