Baylor Equestrian finds unique bond through ‘big and little sisters’

The Baylor equestrian team maintains a close bond outside of practices and competitions. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics.

By AnnaGrace Hale | Sports Writer

With a team of over 60 people, sometimes it’s hard to be on the same page, but the Baylor Equestrian team takes this challenge head-on. The group has a variety of team bonding activities and tactics to allow the riders to form strong friendships throughout the year.

Equestrian is a rather individualized sport. With each event, the rider finds herself in the middle of the arena — just her and her horse. At a collegiate level, the team aspect allows for there to be a support system outside of the ring.

This encouragement system doesn’t form overnight and most of the team building happens outside of the barn. Jumping seat senior Dominika Silvestri said at the beginning of the year there is one large team bonding activity.

“That first initial team bonding activity is pretty important,” Silvestri said. “Then we tend to mix it up and within that, we don’t just stick with our roommates or our class so I love that.”

In an effort to bring unity between classes, each rider is assigned a big sister or a little sister depending on age. Silvestri’s little is freshman Lauren Jorgensen. Before the year begins, coaches put girls into pairs. Jorgensen said it was nice to have a familiar face in Waco before school started.

“When [Silvestri] reached out to me, it was exciting because it just felt way more welcoming, coming into it just at least having that one person who could connect me to the rest of the team,” Jorgensen said.

In turn, the relationships between bigs and littles build a bridge for athletes to meet their sister’s friends.

“This year, we went to Top Golf,” Silvestri said. “My roommates and I took all of our littles to dinner just so we can meet each other’s littles.”

Beside Top Golf, the group did other activities to bond, like speed dating.

“It was really nice just to officially meet everyone again,” Jorgensen said. “We were asked all different kinds of questions to go through each person. That also helped to at least have a small conversation with almost everyone on the team.”

Additionally, these friendships bridge the gap between disciplines or types of riding styles. Western and jumping seat don’t practice together, so meeting girls from other styles is more difficult.

“I actually room with girls on the western side of the team, so it was nice to meet freshmen that aren’t just in the jumping seat discipline but also on the other side of the team,” Silvestri said.

Usually, on meet days the two sides are separated, but when it rains the team comes together to cheer on both events indoors. To Silvestri, these are her favorite days.

“I think that’s so exciting because we can cheer on everyone at the same time and it just really brings the team together,” Silvestri said. “But meet day, no matter what is really fun but it’s really fun to watch the reiners go with the end and the nail-biter points.”