A closer look into Baylor Equestrian

RIDING THE SADDLE TO VICTORY Equestrian senior western rider Ginger Chant competes with Tex in a meet against Oklahoma State on Feb. 4 in Waco. The Bears won the meet 15-4. The Bears have won six straight, dating back to Oct. 29, 2016 against SMU with a 13-6 victory in Waco. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Darrell Harris | Reporter

If you’ve ever wondered what in the world exactly is equestrian, chances are you’re not alone. The sport doesn’t receive primetime coverage or garner front page headlines. You don’t normally see the athletes on TV in commercials or on the cover of cereal boxes. The majority of the riders who ride collegiately and professionally are part of a minority that was exposed to the culture early on and stuck with it throughout their lives.

Ashley Garza, director of operations for the equestrian team, provided an insightful analogy for understanding what equestrian meets (competitions) are like. It’s comparable to gymnastics in the fact that there are certain skills that are displayed through each routine which the judges are looking for and score the riders on accordingly.

There are four events that occur at meets. Equitation over fences and equitation on the flat are the two English events, and they are very similar with one big difference: in both events, the riders attempt to smoothly navigate the horse through a particular course. The difference between the two is that equitation over fences includes the horses jumping over set fences throughout the course and equitation on the flat is simply an open area that involves no jumps. The judges score the riders on how fluid they steer the horses throughout the path. On the flat, judges look for riders to demonstrate how much control they have over the horses by making them do certain things at specific points on the course. For fences, the goal is for it to seem that the horses are jumping right out of their normal strides and to clear the fences without touching them.

Head coach Ellen White described equitation by saying the easier it looks, the better the rider is.

“It should look like one big smooth ride, like the horses could do it without a rider almost,” White said regarding what constitutes a good session in equitation.

The other two events are a part of the western portion of the meet which includes reining and horsemanship. One of the differences between the two styles is that Western events use a bigger saddle than English events. Horsemanship reflects the riders demonstrating control over the horses and giving them commands to do certain things. The horse appears to not move until given a command to. In reining, the riders ride the horses at high speeds around the outdoor arena and command the horses to go certain directions and then stop at a moment’s notice. To the casual fan, reining is often the most entertaining event because watching the horse reach top speed is a spectacle to enjoy.

Equestrian beyond the collegiate level takes a slightly different form. Senior hunt seat rider Savannah Jenkins aspires to ride professionally and spoke in depth about what that looks like.

“I would buy my own horse that I take with me to different competitions and compete there individually for money,” Jenkins said.

Her goals don’t stop there. She hopes to one day represent the United States in Olympic Equestrian.

“I want to compete in the Olympics as well, hopefully in 2024. That will give me more time to prepare,” Jenkins said.

Our Bears are looking to finish the season strong as they are currently ranked No. 1 in the nation. The regular season is coming to a close, and they can use the support of Baylor Nation to propel them to a potential national championship.