The SUNY New Paltz Equestrian Team is riding high after their recent zone win.
Club member and second-year student Claudia Krebs won the intermediate flat class at the zone championship, qualifying herself to head to nationals.
Although unrecognized by the school, the competitive horse riding club of roughly 25 members participates in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA).
The team competes in the IHSA competition in zone 3 region 3 against West Point, Drew University, Vassar College, Marist College, Stevens Institute of Technology, William Paterson University and Centenary College.
According to the IHSA, “The Zone Championships represent the final step for IHSA hunter seat teams and individuals on their quest for Nationals.”
Krebs feels that the win is not only for her, but for the whole team.
“Riding is an individual sport, but winning as part of a team has been a great experience,” Krebs said. “Being part of this team has given me an outlet at school, it keeps me busy and makes me work towards something. The team has been by constant support system and my group of friends.”
Krebs began riding at the age of five with her mother, and since then it has become a major priority in her life. Krebs knew she wanted to continue riding in college and New Paltz’s competitive team and convenient proximity to stables made her final decision.
“It was a hard transition from regular riding to college showing, but it has made me well-rounded and confident. I knew about the team before attending, like the great coaches, the successful team and how close the stables are to campus,” she said.
The team currently takes lessons at Lucky C Stables, a local riding school ten minutes from the College.
Unlike other teams, the members must draw random horses, there is no prior training or scheduling with the horses. Essentially, there can be no bond between a rider and their horse, making lessons and showings more challenging, but ultimately makes the riders more skilled.
So far this year, six members have gone to regionals. This is no easy feat, as 36 points throughout a regular season are needed to qualify. The zone competitions that follow are also competitive since two or three states comprise a zone.
Junior President Susie Pew believes that the success of members past and present signify that the lack of funding or recognition of the school has not stopped them from winning.
“We compete against varsity teams from other schools in competition, which can be challenging for us as a club sport. It’s also been hard to keep a presence on campus since so much of our club operates off-campus, but the Student Association has given us so much support over the years,” said Kelly Parker, president of the team. “Becoming a varsity team would be incredible and is ultimately our goal, but while we’ve been operating as a club sport the Student Association has worked hard with us to fund our team as best they can and make our expenses more manageable for our members,” she said.
Prior experience is not mandatory and everyone is welcome to join. Lessons are twice a week, two are individual and there is also a third lesson with the entire team.
Because of the various levels of experience of each rider, there are tryouts in the beginning of each semester so that members are placed in their appropriate skill level and division.
Different levels of skill determine the kind of practice. Some of the lessons and events that take place are: open flat, open fences, advanced walk, trot and canter, beginner walk, and walk trot.
Owners of Lucky C, Susan and Gary Clark, coach together and assist the team with all of their riding and showing activities. They have been the coaches since the team’s inception back in 2001.
Krebs believes that riding has challenged her physically and mentally, while also relieving her of the daily stresses of school life.
“It has given me a sense of belonging,” Krebs said.
“It’s a great way to connect with nature, get away from the stresses of school life, and opens opportunities to meet new people, challenge yourself, and gain the feeling of being a part of something really awesome.”