The Kenyon College Equestrian Team (KCET), the smallest club sports organization on campus, has made a name for itself beyond Gambier after impressive performances at four shows this semester. The team competed in two shows at Otterbein University on Nov. 5 and 6 and earned reserve champion (or second place) at both. They also celebrated their captain, Lauren Childs ’24, who won high point rider both days and earned the most points of any of the competitors. Considering the team’s small size, limited resources and extended hiatus due to the pandemic, KCET has reached an impressive level of success.
KCET competes in the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA), an organization that provides a competitive equestrian league and show season for collegiate horseback riders. KCET competes against nine other schools in the Zone 6, Region 2 division, such as Denison University, Ohio State University, Ohio Wesleyan University and Otterbein University. KCET typically participates in eight shows a year, and this season has proved itself to be a competitive force within its division. At KCET’s two most recent showings, it was out-performed only by Otterbein University, which Childs noted has a plethora of resources that KCET does not have, such as its own horses and facilities on campus.
KCET’s recent success this year is particularly noteworthy considering the team’s struggles the past few years to find reliable coaches and training facilities. Although these challenges led a few members to opt out of regular participation, many of them returned this year after Childs found Nancy Arledge to serve as the team’s new coach. Since establishing this relationship, the team has been taking lessons at Arledge’s barn in Pataskala, Ohio, where many of the team’s members practice about once a week.
Although coaching and pandemic-related challenges have been largely addressed this semester, the team still faces financial concerns due to the sport’s many high expenses. KCET received $11,838 of the $150,000 in funds available from the Business and Finance Committee’s (BFC) fall semester allocation this past year, according to Vice President for Business and Finance Melissa Nixon ’23. The team has used the funds to cover showing and coaching fees, as well as scholarships for two students who demonstrated financial need. The riders are responsible for paying for their own lesson fees as well as for their equipment, such as show coats, boots, gloves, belts and helmets.
Rachel Wolters ’23, who has been a member of the team since her freshman year, noted that a traditional aspect of the sport is the importance of the riders’ attire and that, as a result, high-quality equipment and riding clothing tend to be expensive. She explained that many A-Circuit riders, for example — highly talented and experienced riders who tend to compete with their own horses outside of collegiate leagues — often own show coats that cost around $1,500. According to Childs and Wolters, in an effort to limit the challenges posed by the high costs, the team does its best to share different clothing items such as boots, shirts and coats at the competitions — an experience that, although not terribly traditional, has ultimately served to bring the team closer together. “Obviously we wouldn’t let anyone walk into the ring not looking correct, so we work really hard, and I think that’s also another bonding experience, just switching show coats and being really helpful to everybody, being like, ‘Oh, I’ll be there right when you get off so that I can grab your show coat, and I’ll give you my boots,’” Childs said.
“We’re literally putting each others’ shoes on for each other,” Wolters added. “So we can take one boot off, put the shoe on, put the other boot on.”
The equestrian team’s success this past semester — not only at their shows but in their ability to overcome the challenges they have faced — is impressive, and it paves the way for an exciting future. The team looks forward to continuing to establish themselves as a dominant team within their division and hopes to someday outperform Otterbein University. Until then, the team hopes to continue to improve and expand, and is grateful that its members are finally able to bond together again over a shared love of horses and horseback riding. “We’re all like family,” Childs said. “A lot of really good friendships have been formed through everyone being on the team, so it’s good. And we’re going to try to get more people out here and get an even bigger team.”