Why I started riding for the University of Ottawa Equestrian Team?
My first year at uOttawa in 2014-15 was very typical; I woke up, went to class, worked out, partied (A LOT), and pulled all nighters. On weekends I would drive down to Montreal to ride my mare (Serenade de Mai, a.k.a. Abby), and during holidays I would be competing at WEF (for those not familiar with the term, the Winter Equestrian Festival is a winter-long horse show in Wellington, Florida).
I soon realized how hard it was for me to balance a full-time school schedule in one city, serious riding in another, and a decent social life in both. My body started shutting down slowly and my health took a downturn at the end of April that year.
After weekly visits to the doctor and endless evenings spent watching Netflix (since I couldn’t do much), I decided to reevaluate my options.
- Idea #1: bring Abby near uOttawa to both ride seriously and study, thinking it would be easier for me if my busy schedule was in the same city.
- Idea #2: take a year off school to show, and then focus on completing my degree.
If you are familiar with my background story, you already know that I went with option number two. I spent summer 2015 showing in the 1.40s, winter 2016 showing at WEF and summer 2016 showing the U25 and Grand Prix classes. Before the end of the summer I had leased out my rock star mare, and there I was: horseless and about to be a full-time student again.
At the start of August I was moving into my new apartment, job-searching and trying to get back into a normal human routine. It didn’t take long for me to be depressed (not riding), and I knew that having Abby in Ottawa wasn’t an option anymore.
This girl I knew had mentioned the university’s riding team to me before, so I looked into it and immediately took action (desperate to get my ass on a saddle). I contacted some of the members, attended the information session, participated in tryouts, and got myself on that team. BEST. DECISION. EVER!
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure if it would be for me at first… I mean, equitation is not my strongest skill (I did get much better. Thanks Mark!). Despite my first impression, I quickly came to love the team and the intercollegiate horse show system. We ride great horses at a super training facility (Wesley Clover Parks), have two amazing coaches: Lauren Hunkin and Mark Struthers, and compete on two circuits: the IHSA Zone 2 Region 2 (U.S.) and the OCEA East Zone (ON).
People often ask me if I regret my decision. Absolutely not!
Why? Because you gain so much by joining a sports team; Countless values and lessons derive from it, for example, I have developed stronger team work skills and improved my work ethic.
Why I think you should join your university’s equestrian team?
– MONEY! Let’s be honest here. Riding and owning a horse can be expensive ($$$$). If for whatever reason finances came between you and competing, joining a university riding team is an amazing option you should consider. It’s the best of both worlds. I mean it.
– PERFECT BALANCE! The university equestrian teams are designed for student athletes; They were created keeping in mind that members are full-time students. Our riders have to train a minimum of once a week and have the option to participate on one or both show circuits. The OCEA horse shows are held on Sundays while the IHSA shows are held on full weekends, and each circuit has about four shows per semester. The structure makes it easy for students to easily balance both school and riding. Once again: the best of both worlds. Still mean it.
– LIFE SKILLS! I. Can’t. Stress. This. Enough. You gain so much by getting involved in a sports team and on campus.
– FUN! I promise, it enhances your overall university experience. You don’t want to miss out.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Feel free to visit the University of Ottawa’s Equestrian Team website here, or follow us on social media @uottawaeq.