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Horsing Around

MELISSA HALTERMAN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Hannah Curtis, a retail and consumer sciences senior, rides her horse, Dee, Thursday morning during an equestrian team practice at the UA agricultural center on North Campbell Avenue. Supporters of the program donated most of the horses used by the team.
By Lauren Hillery
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, February 23, 2004
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UA equestrian team provides participants with life experience

Equestrian? No, it's not an operation on a pregnant woman. Nor is it that club drug. Although the UA equestrian team may argue that the horse-showing sport gives off that same euphoric feeling.

Kacee Adams, animal sciences senior and president of Horseman's Association, describes being on the UA equestrian team as a life experience, not just an extracurricular activity.

"It teaches you a lot about yourself and how you interact with other people," Adams said.

The team consists of 28 women - although men are allowed - who compete against other universities in varying levels of horseback riding events, both English and Western. The UA is the only university in the state to have an intercollegiate horse show team.

It teaches you a lot about yourself and how you interact with other people.

- Kacee Adams, animal sciences senior


Laura Walker, horse unit manager and animal sciences professor, recognizes what a unique and special program it has become.

"The UA is lucky to have a sponsored equine center," Walker said of the center at East Roger Road and North Campbell Avenue.

The program was created by Dr. Mark Arns, a member of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, only three and a half years ago, but has made great strides ever since.

Much of the equipment and all of the horses - including the stallions, breeding mares and team horses - were donated from the community.

"The community has been great in trying to get us going," Adams said, considering that the main stallion is a descendant of Seattle Slew, a former Triple Crown winner.

The team doubles as Animal Sciences 397 C, a UA class with the prerequisite of Animal Sciences 272, Introduction to Horsemanship. But there is no horse experience necessary to join or register.

"The class is open to any caliber of rider. You don't have to be an experienced rider to be on the show team," Walker said.

This results in a team with a variety of experience ranging from walk/trot first-time showers up to national competition riders.

But this young and diverse team proved itself in its first show, Feb. 8 at Cal Poly Pomona in Pomona, Calif. They were awarded Reserve High Stock Seat Team for open riders and Reserve Point High for the open team - both equivalents to first place for various classes.

"We were very proud of ourselves. We blew them away. They weren't expecting us to be that good," Adams said.

Yet the manner of competition is quite different from regular horse shows. When traveling to the shows, the only thing the team members bring are themselves and their clothes. The host school provides the horses and equipment.

Each rider has a designated class. All riders stand outside of the arena before their rides. When it is their turn to compete, the riders draw one horse's name out of a hat and immediately go inside to adjust the equipment. Judging begins immediately after the rider has prepared the horse.

While it might not seem that difficult, imagine it this way: Right before a doubles tennis match, the two-person teams are selected at random and the match begins.

"It provides a challenge if you're not used to it, but we're given mental tools to help us," Adams said.

The logistics of their practices aid them in this type of challenge. Each week, all the riders are encouraged to ride a different horse, to avoid getting too comfortable with one horse and one style of riding.

However, actually competing in the shows requires the riders to cough up some hefty out-of-pocket dough. The last show cost each girl around $100 - which included the use of a school van, a $35 fee per class, food and hotel.

But the equine center itself is primarily self-sustaining. Each year, the center raises and sells 13-14 thoroughbred (race horse) babies, breeding their six stallions with their breeding mares.

"It's the thoroughbred babies that keep us afloat," Walker said.

Occasionally they'll breed with outside mares, bringing in stud fees, and receive donations, but most of their income is brought in from selling the yearlings.

These girls have lots of passion and love for the program. Some girls admit to riding and helping out at the center more than going to regular classes - which can make balancing school and riding a challenge.

"It makes (school) harder because I don't go to class very much, but I never miss this class," said Kristina Westerman, an animal sciences senior. "But it's what I love, so it's worth the hard work."

Even if they aren't riding, the environment causes the basic enjoyment.

"It's the fact that I just get to be around the horses that makes it so enjoyable," said Ann Marie Lazarski, a rehabilitation senior.

Even though it requires a lot of self-discipline and energy to get up for practice once a week at 7:30 a.m., the team agrees that it's well worth it.

"I so look forward to every Tuesday morning. It feels great to get out and ride," Adams said.

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