November 13, 2009 : Phylicia Duran
I still remember the day I walked into the dining hall happily sporting my Liberty University Equestrian Team track jacket – with the LU Equestrian logo and name emblazoned across the back in brilliant red and blue. A young man standing behind me in the Southwestern line looked confused, and catching my eye, he asked, “So is ‘equestrian’ another term for the debate team?” Nevermind the picture of a horse imprinted on my back! Unfortunately, the general public is uninformed about equestrian sports; but here at LU, that is about to change.
At the beginning of the fall 2009 semester Liberty’s first equestrian team was added to campus club sports. It had been in the works for several years, but never had a facility and coach become available until this year. Crystal Rivers, owner of Serene Creek Run Riding Center, in Forest, Va., has donated her facility and her time to be Liberty’s first equestrian team coach.
Equestrian sports, while less publicized than the NCAA sports divisions, are very popular in Virginia and in the Lynchburg area specifically. Schools like Sweet Briar, Bridgewater, Hollins, Randolph and Lynchburg Colleges, as well as UVA and Washington and Lee, all participate in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) competitions. It will be against these schools that Liberty will compete.
Equestrian sports are divided into classes within each show, either hunter flat classes (showing the horses’ paces and the ability of the rider) or hunter-jumper classes (showing equitation over fences). These classes in turn are divided according to the experience of the rider – advanced, intermediate and novice. Riders are judged on their form and their ability to manage the horse either on the rail or over fences.
LU’s equestrian team practices at Coach Rivers’ facility, Serene Creek, three times a week at least. Because the team is new to IHSA, it has not competed this semester but will begin competitions in February of 2010, beginning with Randolph College. Currently there are eleven active riders on the equestrian team roster. Rivers hopes to increase this number over time as more students try out.
The team also works in conjunction with Thomas Road Baptist Church for its community groups on Wednesday nights, when Rivers teaches free riding lessons from 6:30-7:30 pm. Equestrian team members assist with the lessons. Liberty students are welcome to attend Wednesday nights at Serene Creek. For more information, visit the website.
- Phylicia Duran