The Truman State University equestrian team isn’t just for experienced horseback riders — it’s also open to people who want to go the University Farm and ride horses for fun.
The Truman Agricultural Science Department runs the University Farm which has 40 horses and an annual breeding program. Equestrian team president senior Riley Merdinian said in addition to the horses, there are about 10 stalls available for students to board their own horses.
Merdinian said competitions are hosted between September and May through the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. The team rides in English and Western style competitions in hunt and stock seats — the English team competes in Zone 7, Region 5 and the Western team competes in Zone 7, Region 4. The team travels throughout Missouri, Illinois and Iowa for most of the competitions — unless a rider qualifies for nationals — without the Truman horses.
“Before the show starts, we watch each of the horses warm up and then, before our class, we have to draw a horse’s name and that is the horse we will ride,” Merdinian said. “We have to ride that horse to the best of our ability based off of a short description and what we saw while it was warming up.”
Last weekend, the team traveled to Chicago to compete in a hunt seat in the English show. This means fences, jump and flat classes were riding around the ring simultaneously. Alumna and coach Emily Costello said the team did well this weekend, finishing in a tie for fourth on Saturday and second on Sunday out of 10 teams.
After getting randomly assigned horses, Costello said the riders are judged based on their equitation — riding position — and how well they control an unfamiliar horse.
“Both English and Western teams are top 5 in our region,” Costello said. “We have five riders qualified for regionals in the spring and three more that are very close. We consistently send riders to zones or semifinals and have had multiple riders place in the top 10 at nationals.”
Vice president junior Hannah Patton said they practice through the cold weather. Patton said practices happen five days a week unless the temperature is 15 degrees or below. This makes the ground too slippery for the horses. She said the team is fortunate to have a facility that allows them to ride inside during the winter.
Patton said she values her time on the equestrian team because she has been horseback riding since she was five years old. When looking for colleges, she said finding one with an equestrian team was a priority, so she was happy when she found out Truman had one.
“I am so lucky I can continue competing in this sport at the college level and that Truman offers it as one of their club sports,” Patton said. “Being on this team has already given me so many amazing memories, and I can’t wait to see how many more I’ll have by the time I graduate.”
The team accepts anyone who is interested regardless of experience or riding background. The only thing someone needs to join is their own pair of boots — everything else can be provided. The team accepts new members at the beginning of each fall semester. The next competition is in the Western stock seat Nov. 18-19 in Galva, Illinois.