At Ohio University, there are several niche student organizations and clubs that pique the diverse interests of students. For students interested in horses and equestrian pursuits, there are two organizations at OU that demonstrate this hobby: the OU Western Equestrian Team and the OU Hunt Seat Equestrian Team.
The Hunt Seat Equestrian Team is a team of the Interuniversity Equestrian Competition Association, or IHSA, which focuses on participation in various competitions and community service near Athens.
Emma Boczulak, a freshman studying wildlife and conservation biology, started riding horses when she was 3 years old. As Boczulak never had a horse of her own, she said it was beneficial to her experience in Hunt Seat team competitions.
“We compete on the other college’s horses, so when you compete it’s a horse you’ve never ridden before and you’ve never met,” Boczulak said. “So that’s something I did growing up because I never had my own horse.”
OU’s Western Equestrian Team focuses on Western-based riding and lesson opportunities. Team horses are accessible through their partnership with Hocking College, which allows members to get lessons and ride locally. During their ISHA shows, the Western Equestrian Team uses a tactic similar to Team Hunt Seat, as their riders select names from a hat and show off the chosen horse without any prior practice.
Alyssa Wilson, a senior bioscience student, said this strategy can add an extra layer of difficulty to competitions.
“In the past, I have ridden horses that had just been mine; I’ve been practicing for years,” Wilson said. “So riding a horse that (you) don’t even know adds a bit to the equation, (and it) levels the playing field. But it’s fun that way just to see what you’re going to get.
Emma Tremblay, a junior biology student and member of both organizations, said the COVID-19 pandemic had a big impact on the number of members in each of the groups.
“It’s been hard to recruit, so our team has shrunk,” said Tremblay. “But we’re pretty much back to training, and we’re back to the shows, and everything else is as normal as it gets right now.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilson said the Western Equestrian Team has been engaged for most of the past year. This waste of time, Wilson said, has drastically reduced opportunities to take lessons, ride and show.
“Unfortunately, for a senior like me, it prevented a year from possibly moving to another level,” Wilson said. “But we adapted and we kept the club together, which is a really good thing. We persevered.”
Despite the difficulty of recruiting and returning in person after a year in line, Wilson said his team had shown determination and persistence in their abilities.
“I love seeing the new members coming in and their enthusiasm for the club,” Wilson said. “They were a little hesitant at first…but I’ve definitely seen them become more confident. They put their heart and soul into this club. I love seeing how much of a team they are.
For Boczulak, while the bond she shares with her teammates is important to her, she said her favorite part of the club is still what’s at the heart of it all: the horses.
“I really like having a group of friends who all like to do the same thing I do,” Boczulak said. “But horses have always been the reason I’m in it. I would rather be surrounded by horses than ride horses any day. I think being able to rub shoulders with so many amazing horses every day is the best.
For students interested in joining one of the OU’s equestrian teams and participating in future lessons and competitions, the respective managers can be contacted via Bobcat Connect.