Equal Opportunity Horses: The Equestrian Club

Rose Stoloff, Staff Writer

One mile north of downtown Oberlin lies a ranch that is valued by a select group of students. It’s called “Equine Differences,” and it’s home to the Oberlin College equestrian team.

When the equestrian team was formed about nine years ago, and it’s membership consisted of just seven students. The club sport has since flourished, and today it boasts a solid 45-student roster. Members of all levels of experience, novice to experienced, participate in five to six shows a year and compete against other collegiate teams. Oberlin also hosts its own annual show, which attracts seven teams and about 200 riders.

The team was founded on the principles of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, which pledges equal opportunity for all things equine — which can be tough, especially for a sport traditionally dominated by those who are willing to pay for the nicest horses.

“Their mantra is to provide horse showing to people that can’t afford it and to create an even playing field,” said senior captain Erin Hodgson, “because most of the time when you show horses it’s the person who can afford the best horse who wins. But in the IHSA, you pull a horse out of a hat.”

Through fundraising, the team has been able to provide show clothes, which normally can cost up to $700, for the entire team.

“That’s really rewarding, especially for me,” said Hodgson. “I didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and horses were something I had to really, really work hard for.”

The club also strives to incorporate people of all levels of experience. Several members of the team have also worked to introduce a formal horseback-riding class into the Athletics and Physical Education department in an effort to make the sport more accessible to the broader College community.

“I’ve been riding since I was five,” said Hodgson, “but we have people who started three weeks ago. So it’s a super wide range of people.”

This past weekend, three members of the team headed out to Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, for the penultimate show of the year. Junior Leigh Smith was the only team member to place at the event. She received sixth place in her jumping class of the English riding division.

Hodgson was proud of Smith’s performance. “A lot of the other teams have equestrian programs so they’re riding every day; so sometimes it’s hard for us to stay competitive because we’re just not practicing as much as they are. But I think right now [the team] is at a really, really good place.”