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Horseback Riding in College: Tips from Gabrielle Fournier

Gabrielle-Fournier-Jumping
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Written by Gabrielle Fournier

College Team: Delaware State University (Learn More)
State: Delaware
Year in College: Sophomore
Joined Team: 2017
Riding Discipline(s): Hunter/Jumper/Equitation

About Gabrielle: I am from Connecticut. I have been a working student since I was eight years old and have trained/worked with top trainers such as Timmy Kees, Lindsey Knight, Nikko Ritter, and Frank Madden. I am currently majoring in History with a minor in Pre-Law. I do not have any other hobbies as school and riding and competing fill up my schedule. I love being a student-athlete at Delaware State University because of the great connections and friendships I have been able to make.

Collegiate Equestrian Interview

Q: What was your pre-college horse experience?

I started riding when I was four years old and started competing at six years old. I absolutely fell in love with it. From the horse care to the show ring I loved every aspect of the sport. I started in the short stirrup then to the pony hunters, to the Equitation (maclay, medal, etc.), and now a student-athlete.

For most of my junior career I had the opportunity to ride and show many different horses other than my own equitation horse, which I was very fortunate enough to do because of my working student position and connections. I am very comfortable getting on new horses and competing them which I believe has helped me tremendously in the NCEA format.

Q: What were equestrian team tryouts like?

I did not tryout for Delaware State. The hunt seat coach, at the time, had sent me an email inviting me to a “Recruit Day” at the school and I absolutely fell in love with the team and campus. I spoke to both coaches, shared my riding resume and videos… and I was accepted!

Q: Describe a typical week on the team.

Gabrielle-Fournier-StirruplessI am fortunate enough to have a great academic schedule with classes only Tuesday-Thursday. So, my “ride times” or practices are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:00 am. I ride with about three to five other teammates.

From no stirrups to gymnastics or preparing for competitions and practicing the courses or patterns we all work as a team and help one another out. Then, on Tuesdays and Thursdays we have workouts from 11:00 to 12:00 with our team athletic trainer.

I live with three other teammates and we often have family dinners and socialize with other teammates throughout the week from movie nights to game night we truly are one big, hardworking family.

Q: What type of riding did you choose and why?

I have competed in in the Hunter/Jumper/Equitation discipline my entire life and could never see me doing anything different. I started riding in this discipline and never really thought about changing that. I just love it!

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

I was a working student since I was eight years old, so I was ALWAYS at the barn working and riding. My senior year of high school my parents and I decided to take me out of public school and enroll me into online school with Signature Academics allowing me to be a full time working student and compete in Wellington, Florida for the winter season.

This definitely taught me how to balance academics and riding and introduced me to some of the sacrifices I had to make if I really wanted to be competitive in this sport. Therefore, coming into the life of a student-athlete with the struggles of balancing not only academics, but practices, community service, study hall, and workouts… I was ready.

I am a firm believer in planners and planning so I live by my planner and write down absolutely everything that I need to accomplish. I try to stay as focused as I can with a positive attitude and that has seemed to work for me.

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

Gabrielle-Fournier-Jumping-Tuck

I have always struggled with, and continue to struggle with the mental aspect of this sport. I will usually get in my head before a big meet and it will show during practices.

I always over think things in practice and try to correct some of the mistakes instantly without thinking all the way through.

My advice to others would be to breathe and make sure that you use your practice time as practice. If you need to spend an extra ten minutes on something silly like keeping your heels down, then use that time wisely and really get the most out of each practice.

Q: What have horses taught you?

Patience, patience, patience. My trainer, Lindsey Knight has taught me from the first lesson that she had ever given me was to always put the horse first. I have had the amazing opportunity to ride and show different horses which has definitely taught me a lot about horsemanship.

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?

On the first day on the team I had a positive attitude and was looking forward to learning new things from my teammates, coaches, the format of the NCEA. Realizing that my junior career was ending and moving onto the next chapter in my life was a little overwhelming though. One piece of advice I would have given myself on the first day on the team is to just breathe and take it day by day.

Q: Why should students join a college equestrian team?

People should join a college equestrian team because of the great life lessons that come with this format and being on a team. Some of the lessons I have learned, beyond riding, are patience, sportsmanship, and the ability to prioritize.

As a student athlete you are always representing your team and should always have the team first from academics to competitions. I think these are really great life lessons that being on a college equestrian team can provide young adults.

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

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I feel like I need to say my helmet or my boots. But, secretly I cannot live without my tailored sportsman belt. I take it everywhere and I have worn it for so long that I guess you can say its my superstition to always wear it when I ride!

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

My first and only horse that I own, iCloud, will forever be my favorite horse. My family and I imported him when he was four years old thinking he was going to be an investment horse. He was gorgeous! He and I just clicked, and he eventually became my equitation horse. He taught me almost everything I know today, and I owe all of my successes to him and what he taught me.

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About the author

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Gabrielle Fournier

I am from Connecticut. I have been a working student since I was eight years old and have trained/worked with top trainers such as Timmy Kees, Lindsey Knight, Nikko Ritter, and Frank Madden. I am currently majoring in History with a minor in Pre-Law. I do not have any other hobbies as school and riding and competing fill up my schedule. I love being a student-athlete at Delaware State University because of the great connections and friendships I have been able to make.