Menu Down Arrows


Download Magazine

View or download the print version of the magazine. PDF icon  

Download Fall 2018 WT

Wofford’s newest team takes off

Newly founded equestrian team shows potential

It’s practice time for Wofford’s newest athletic team. Instead of walking onto a court or field, however, the members stride into the ring with their respective four-legged partners – their horses. While these horses do not necessarily belong to the riders, horse and student work together on a deep level of connectedness and communication.

With the first few months of official practices and the first competitions of the season under their belts, Wofford’s new equestrian team is firmly established on campus, beginning what co-founders Abby Umberger ’17 and Bennett Camp-Crowder ’17 hope to be a successful first show season.

According to Umberger, in past years riders who wished to continue competing on a collegiate level were forced to do so privately – or give up horses entirely.

Virginia McCully ’16 explains that she originally looked for colleges with equestrian teams. “I looked at schools such as Converse and College of Charleston, but I chose Wofford,” she says. “Now, I can have the best of both worlds.”

Camp-Crowder, a nationally ranked equestrian, competed with her two horses all of the past year on a private scale. Other Wofford students, like McCully, simply gave up the sport their first year, unable or unwilling to afford the cost of competing on an individual level. All that has changed as of this year, now that the college has recognized this group, currently comprised of all women, as a team within the non-competitive Equestrian Club.

Megan Kneece ’18 moved her personal horse to the boarding facility in Landrum, S.C., for the team to use.

“I didn't want to have to stop training and showing because of college,” says Kneece. “All the women on the team are awesome, and it's a lot of fun training and showing together! It's our first year, but we have really good riders, and we'll be able to be competitive against teams that have been doing this a lot longer than us. It'll be exciting to watch us grow as a team as we get more training and show mileage this year.”

The team has been taken in by Jeanne Smith of Clear View Farm, who is providing horses and weekly coaching services for the team. Smith, a well-respected equestrian professional, has been coaching riders for many years and has also been a judge for the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association — the organization within which the Wofford team will compete.

“I am so excited about learning with Coach Smith— she is really great!” says McCully.

Practices are in the form of group or private lessons, all of which are used to prepare for the intercollegiate competitions, which began in October and will run through late February.

The team’s first competition was held Oct. 11-12, hosted by Lander University in Greenwood, S.C. Of the eight riders who competed, seven placed in their respective classes, claiming one of the six ribbons awarded each class.

Addison Timmons ’18 placed third in her division, competing on the flat. Caroline Moseley ’17 placed fourth in her division over fences, and Grace Edwards ’18 placed fifth in her division both over fences and on the flat and earned first place over fences as well.

A blue-ribbon winner for the team, Camp-Crowder placed third over fences and first over flat, plus fifth over fences in the open division. Umberger placed second over fences in the novice division. Mary Margaret Holden ’18 placed fifth over fences and sixth on the flat in the novice division. Kneece placed fifth in the novice over fences division.

The team competed against well-established NCAA teams from Clemson, College of Charleston, University of South Carolina and Lander University as well as smaller teams from Converse College, UNC-Greensboro, Coastal Carolina University and Georgia Southern.

In an effort to prevent success based on expensive, personal horses, IHSA randomly assigns riders to unfamiliar horses via a drawing held each morning, which Timmons learned could dramatically influence the outcome of the class.

“The luck of the draw can make or break your performance. While training and preparing for shows is crucial, the difference between drawing a well-trained and responsive horse or a horse that is less than ideal (not well-trained, difficult to handle, easily spooked, etc.) can jeopardize your ranking, especially since your first interaction with the horse is climbing on,” says Timmons, who says a horse spooked and bucked its ride off during the most recent competition. The rider was disqualified. “Ultimately, this was completely out of her control, but it left her limping, and the draw had a lot to do with that. I drew a fairly good mount and ended up placing third.”

Umberger and her teammates are confident that the remainder of the season will be successful, especially since there are so many levels of riders represented on the team. While it takes a great deal of dedication to participate as a team member, this “pilot team” has shown extraordinary commitment to the cause, says Umberger. “They have been so flexible and understanding with all the craziness that accompanies starting something this big,” she says.

According to Gabby Stephens ’18, the team’s biggest hurdle isn’t in the ring. It’s funding. Currently, the team and all of its activities are privately funded for the most part, though the team has been fundraising to support this endeavor and continues to seek additional support so that all interested riders may participate.

“We’ve already had riders forced to cut back on their involvement due to financial stress, and this limits their potential as an individual and our progress as a team,” says Stephens. “At the same time, we’re starting to see encouragement and support from the community, and that’s really exciting.”

For more information, visit the team’s Facebook page, Wofford College IHSA Equestrian Team.

by Sarah Madden ’17, Wofford College Old Gold and Black