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Horseback Riding in College: Tips from Blythe Poor

Written by Blythe Poor

College Team: Bennington College (Learn More)
State: Vermont
Year in College:  Freshman
Joined Team:  Fall 2018
Riding Discipline(s): Dressage, Hunter

About Blythe:  I’m from Brooklyn, New York. I came to Bennington College to study the visual arts, specifically painting, and illustration. In what free time I have, I enjoy drawing, reading, playing video games with my brother, and a newfound hobby, customizing Breyer model horses.  

Collegiate Equestrian Interview

Q: What was your pre-college horse experience?

I started riding when I was eight years old. I was going through that seven-year-old phase where I would have a new favorite animal every two weeks or so, and then when I finally got to horses, I never stopped. My mom and I searched for a barn for me to ride at in upstate New York, since I didn’t like any of the reachable ones in the city. We finally found a dressage barn that I fell in love with immediately, Friendship Equestrian Center. I spent the next seven or eight years of my life riding there every weekend, being taught classical dressage by Jessica Riley.

Q: What were equestrian team tryouts like?

The equestrian team at Bennington College is very relaxed, which is one of the reasons I enjoy being a part of it so much. We were all just there to have fun and hang out together. I honestly just signed up, discussed my riding history with our coach, and was welcomed very warmly immediately. Of course, my riding abilities were assessed when I actually rode in front of my coach before I filled out any forms.

Q: Describe a typical week on the team.

We all have very different schedules, so it is hard to coordinate. Typically, we schedule lessons or practice as often as we can, and shows are every Saturday. The shows are basically social activities, since there are only four of us on the team. On campus, we try to hang out together as much as possible by scheduling casual hangouts, or even planning big outings to go shopping.  

Blythe-Poor-FlatworkQ: What type of riding did you choose and why?

When I first started riding, I was doing dressage simply because it was the discipline they were teaching at that barn. I got a little older and was able to understand the differences between other disciplines, but I decided to stick with dressage because it was so amazing that I, a small child barely over five feet tall, could work with a fifteen hundred pound animal by pressing my leg here and adding a bit of rein pressure there. Once I got to college and joined the equestrian team, I had to learn hunter/jumper style, which I had been wanting to.

Q: What are some challenges of balancing academic and equestrian responsibilities?

Going from high school to college, it is hard to get a sense of where the separation between school and down time is. At college, you are always at school, so it is hard to find the right moment to pull yourself away.

Q: What’s one “rookie mistake” you made?

I was helping bathe a pony at riding camp. Everyone else had taken the available washing mitts and curry combs, so I went looking for a tool to use so that I could help out. I saw a sheepskin grooming mitt outside of the tack room and I thought, “Well, it looks like something I could wash a pony with.”

So I grabbed it and went back to join my friends. Once we finished, one of my friends noticed what I had used and told me what it was and what it was used for. How can others avoid this problem? If you are not sure what something is, ask. Asking is much better than a pang of guilt.

Blythe-Poor-FriendsQ: What have horses taught you?

One of the things I do best is worrying and dwelling on things I have done wrong. Horses can pick up on emotions very easily and if I am too frustrated with myself, it might affect my ride. As a very emotional person who tends to jump to the worst conclusion possible, working with horses has helped me learn to take a step back and approach a problem logically.

Q: If you could travel back in time to your first day on the team and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would tell myself that my teammates didn’t miss my first show because they did not want to get to know me. It’s simply hard for them to drag themselves out of bed so early on a Saturday morning!

Blythe-Poor-Friends-2Q: Why should students join a college equestrian team?

While doing one of my favorite things, it was a great way to get involved and become friends with people I probably would have never met. I have even told my teammates how grateful I am to have horsey friends who I can talk to and not have to hear the words, “oh…wow!” You get to meet people from other schools in your region, as well!

Q: What’s one piece of gear you can’t live without?

My Dublin Suede half chaps! I do not know how, but those things have been protecting my calves from potential stirrup leather pinching for so long, I can’t even remember when I got them. They have held up so well and my calves are definitely not the same size that they were when I first got them, but somehow they still fit.

Q: Who is your favorite horse to ride and why?

To be fair, I have not ridden enough horses at the new barn to determine who my favorite horse to ride is… yet!

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About the author


Blythe Poor

I’m from Brooklyn, New York. I came to Bennington College to study the visual arts, specifically painting, and illustration. In what free time I have, I enjoy drawing, reading, playing video games with my brother, and a newfound hobby, customizing Breyer model horses.