College Team: The University of Findlay (Learn More)
Year in College: Junior
Joined Team: 2016
Riding Discipline(s): Western / All Around
About Charlotte: I am originally from England. In 2007, at the age of nine, I moved to Michigan. I am an Animal Science major along with a chemistry minor and received an associate’s degree in Western Equestrian Studies my first two years at school. I enjoy riding and showing horses (obviously) and watching Netflix or napping with my dog.
Collegiate Equestrian Interview
Q: What was your pre-college horse experience?
I started taking lessons at the age of eleven and then quickly dove into leasing an old, dead-broke gelding and showing with my local 4-H club. By the next show season, we had purchased my first horse, a less old, less dead-broke bay gelding, whom I showed through the next few years of 4-H and at the bigger open shows in Michigan.
My parents kindly let me keep him on our property and I would come home from school every day and ride. We grew together and I made a ton of mistakes in my “training” along the way. With consistent lessons and a lot of trial and error, I managed to take him from green broke to a performing show horse. We then purchased another bay gelding to take me from open shows to the AQHA shows.
I’ve worked with some incredible trainers along the way, and my favorite classes are definitely equitation and trail. I spent my last youth years being lucky enough to travel the country to show in the all-around events at places like the AQHA Youth World Show and The All American Quarter Horse Congress, which was a dream come true.
Throughout the years and my high school equestrian team days, I’ve done everything from riding saddle seat on a Friesian to going to barrel racing shows, jumping three foot fences, showing alongside of my idols, and doing plenty of posting with no stirrups! #rookiesgetready
Q: What were equestrian team tryouts like?
The first year, I was so nervous. However, for the most part the tryouts are laid back and the team is very welcoming to new people. We try out by division and randomly draw a horse. You ride into the pen with no warm up time, like you would for a show, and “show” one direction around the ring. Then you switch horses, reverse directions, show on the rail again, and then complete a horsemanship pattern.
The coaches usually judge everyone on a score sheet like you would have at a show, and a couple days later they post the list of individuals who made it on the team. Because we always have so many people tryout, we usually split tryouts between three nights.
We do tryouts every fall, and you have to try out every year even if you have already been on the team. Our teams usually consist of around 35-40 people each year, from all varying levels of experience and backgrounds.
Q: Describe a typical week on the team.
We have one practice per week during the regular season – usually at 6am. We not only work on our horsemanship position, but also on making the horses look and behave their best. The number of practices usually increases to two or three times per week as we approach semi-finals or nationals.
We also have workouts once a week, where we work on strengthening, cardio, and overall team bonding.
Team members, not in the western equestrian studies program, are required to clean one stall at the barn per week. We also host several of our IHSA shows on our home turf, and all the team members are responsible for making sure that the show runs smoothly.
We have evening meetings on the nights leading up to the shows in order to organize everything. For away shows, we will take several busses and leave from campus in the early hours of the morning (usually stopping for coffee on the way!).
The shows occur on Saturdays about once a month throughout the season. We also are required to sign up for at least one night of volunteer work each semester – this usually includes helping out at the local therapeutic riding center.
Q: What type of riding did you choose and why?
I’ve dabbled in just about everything. These days I show in the all-around events on the AQHA circuit and in horsemanship for the western IHSA collegiate team.
My favorite event to show in is definitely the equitation, followed by the trail. I started riding English, so it’s actually where I find myself most comfortable, even though now I’m riding western more often.
Posting at a long trot and hand galloping until my ankles are on fire is my happy place – and probably always will be!
I chose to ride in these disciplines just because it was what I have been around most through the years and what I have stuck with. I like showing the all-around events so I have lots of different things to work on and I do not get bored. I would hate going to a show and only showing in one class!
Q: What are some challenges of balancing academic and equestrian responsibilities?
The main challenge is probably time management. I think if you can manage your time effectively, you can handle anything. I like to keep a planner so I can keep track of everything I need to do for the week, and have it all organized. I also try to do a little homework or studying each day, so that I can work on it in chunks and not have to cram everything the night before.
I am a person who needs their sleep. I hate getting up early, and I’m usually in bed my nine. So I have to plan my day so that I can get everything done and I can get the most sleep possible!!
Q: What’s one “rookie mistake” you made?
I have definitely made some hideous fashion mistakes in my earlier years of showing, but who hasn’t?! The unshaped hat and the neon green belt was not a good look…
Other than that, through a couple of my early teen years, I would get frustrated when things would not go my way while riding. I would blame my horse and get angry instead of taking a breath and coming back to the core issue. Now, I know better and try to work with the horses instead of against them.
Horses want to please us (for the most part) and it is much easier to be their friend and partner than their enemy.
Q: What have horses taught you?
Horses have taught me everything. My first horse was my first love, my best friend, and most importantly my greatest educator. His final lesson to me was how to grieve and handle loss, when he passed away very unexpectedly.
Horses have taught me how to lose and how to win with grace, and have gifted me with lifelong friends. I undoubtedly would be an entirely different individual if I did not have horses as a part of my life.
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?
Relax! I was so nervous at the beginning. I wanted to be the best and I thought I had so much to prove. Also, I think the greatest thing that I have learned since then is to relax my upper body and not focus solely on the horsemanship position.
Of course, in the horsemanship class your equitation is important. I now focus more on my ‘feel’ and getting along with the horse underneath me. Sure, you should keep your elbows glued to your side, with your chin up and heels down.
But, if you are pitching your rein hand forward three inches in your turn around to improve your horse’s ability to execute the maneuver, I think that judges are going to reward that more than if your hand is locked in position and you are bracing against your horse.
I think that when you ride smartly and effectively, your horsemanship position will follow naturally without having to think about it too much.
Q: Why should students join a college equestrian team?
I love to ride, and I love to compete. To be with other people who also love to ride and are equally as competitive is awesome! I have met the greatest friends through the team, and made the most incredible memories.
Last year at nationals in Pennsylvania, I won my class and so did many of my friends. Any time each of our team members placed, we would all gather in a group and run into the arena for a huge hug around our teammate.
The team as a whole won nationals that year, for the first time in many years, with a new head coach. I like to think that week was the greatest of my life… so far! We had so much fun and I loved every minute.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DhGmevNGdc]
Q: What’s one piece of gear you can’t live without?
I think having a great pair of spurs is important. I have a pair of clover leaf spurs that I love. They are soft enough for light sided horses but I can still get anything I want done on a lazy one. I never have to change my spurs out because they work on anything I ride!About the Team Shop Horse Rookie Riding Essentials Meet More Students
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