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Grown Here at Home: A look inside the sport of horse riding with the Hollins Equestrian team

Hollins University is known all over the country for its riding program.
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 7:40 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Hollins University Equestrian Team is made up of riders of all skill levels. Whether beginner or advanced, all their abilities play a part in the team’s success. It’s an opportunity for them to learn from each other.

“Getting to be on the team, I could be friends with everybody who had such like-minded interests and I got introduced to showing, which I ended up really, really enjoying,” said team member Hannah Jones.

Riding is a skill and a sport. These ladies and their horses are athletes.

“There’s a lot of athleticism and a tremendous amount of core strength involved in riding. Riders have to be master multi-taskers. We go through and work on three main ideas -- ensuring that their position is correct, and that’s going to change a little bit on every single horse, and every piece of equipment that they sit in. They’ve got to have a good awareness of what pace they have, how much ground they’re covering, and any changes that need to be made, as well as, controlling both sides of the horse and staying in their lane, if you will,” said Director of Riding and Equestrian Team Head Coach Sherri West.

There’s a rhythm to the riding – a pacing the riders must ensure their horses keep as they go for each jump.

“You can’t be too slow and you can’t be too fast because it’s all about making adjustments seamless adjustments to the front of the jump,” said team member Rachel Hill.

While the riders are working hard, the horses are putting in work, too.

“Their core is working and they’re working 24-7. Not only do you have to have endurance, but they’re also working on their endurance,” explained team member Courtney Wilson.

If you think the athletic part is challenging enough, they do all this while keeping up with the course load of being full-time students.

“It’s a demanding environment. We have team commitments, practices, workouts, so there’s a lot to balance in addition to our regular academics. We get the schoolwork done and we work hard on the horse and off the horse so that we can be the best we can be in competitions and represent Hollins well,” said team member Sarah Himes.

With all the work involved, they all agree the experience has changed them for the better and will stick with them the rest of their lives.

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