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As an official club sport, the Liberty Women’s Equestrian Team is preparing before competitions begin
Equestrian enthusiasts will soon take up their saddles and compete for a spot on the new women’s club team, the most recent expansion to Liberty’s club sports program.
Caroline Trexler, barn manager and head coach of the equestrian team, said students have wanted to create an equestrian team even before the new facility was built. After receiving approval from the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA), the association that governs collegiate competitions, Trexler said she will piece together a team using the tryouts and evaluation rides.
“That’s what we’re working on right now,” Trexler said. “(We are) fitting in when we’re going to have our evaluation rides and our tryouts, so we’ll probably be having some later this week and probably some next week.”
Trexler said that she anticipates having about eight to 10 people on the team, a relatively small group, but the IHSA does not impose a numbers limit on its teams.
According to Trexler, IHSA has eight different divisions from basic beginner riding to more accomplished divisions. A rider can only compete in one division until enough points are won to move to the next division or until a rider’s abilities have progressed enough to be moved to the next division.
“(We’ll be) trying to plug in our riders so that we don’t have five open riders and … in a perfect world, of course, aligning so we’ve got even distribution of students amongst those divisions,” Trexler said. “The best capacity that you have to be successful in a show is to have riders in every division.”
Along with three or four shows during the semester, Trexler said that there will be weekly group and individual riding lessons. She also said that she is excited to provide riders with informational seminars.
“You end up having a huge number of students, particularly in this sort of an environment, become proficient riders, particularly a lot of your students that board,” Trexler said. “They become good riders, but are completely, completely clueless when it comes to a lot of other aspects of horse keeping. So what we’re hoping to do is set up seminars where students will become more well-rounded horse people.”
Kirk Handy, Liberty director of Club Sports, said that he is excited for the new equestrian team’s opportunity to represent Liberty.
“We have a great facility,” Handy said. “We have a coach up there, Caroline, and we’ve just hired another one, Lori Matthews, up there who are going to be awesome for Liberty students. It’s going to be awesome to build our program. We want to build this thing into a national powerhouse.”
Handy said he holds no concerns for the new team and that the ultimate goal is to win a national championship and to have riders ranked in the top of the equestrian world.
“I think you have to be realistic, though,” Handy said. “Our goals in year one (are) to get off and running and to develop a program there that’s going to be well recognized in the equestrian world. And I think that’s the biggest part. Let’s build the base of the team first. Let’s build it strong. Let’s make sure that we set our foundational pillars in place to make sure we’re setting this thing up for success, and I believe we are.”
Similar to Handy, Trexler said her semester goal is to create a functional team that rides successfully and, down the road, to build on that team to become a stronger competitor in the region.
“It’s going to be a challenging region to go into,” Trexler said. “The shows that we will be competing with on a show-to-show level are Sweet Briar College, Hollins College, Bridgewater College (and) Randolph College … and having that kind of competition in our region is going to be very challenging for us, because it is such a brutally challenging region. However, competing against that type of program and that type of rider provides such an opportunity for growth. The better the competition is, the better you have to be.”
Trexler said it is important to build and develop a riding program where the riders and coaches embrace a unique mindset.
“One of the biggest things that we try to embrace and enforce up here at the barn is that everyone that comes up here, regardless of whether it is a student that has never ridden a horse before, a student that might have a $600 horse (or) a student that has a $50,000 horse … they can have a quality and a positive riding experience and feel welcome and learn something and be embraced,” Trexler said.
Understanding the importance of this mindset, Handy said that he is impressed by the people involved with the new equestrian team.
“God brings people to specific areas of Liberty University where their hearts are at,” Handy said. “The people we’re attracting up there, like Lori Matthews and people like that, aren’t casual equestrian people. These are people who know what they’re doing. That’s an amazing thing you see here at Liberty.”
Times for tryouts at Liberty’s Equestrian Center are still to be announced. For more information regarding the new equestrian team, email Caroline Trexler at email@example.com