Just horsing around
Equestrian Center offers horseback riding to students of any skill
“I think the feeling of being on a horse and developing a certain trust with it is an experience like nothing else,” senior Cassandra Steptoe said.
The Equestrian Center offers students the same opportunity to enjoy horseback riding, regardless of skill level.
Steptoe, one of Liberty’s English Equestrian team captains, has seen the changes made to the Equestrian Center throughout her time at Liberty.
Located in Rustburg, Virginia, the Equestrian Center now boasts 400 acres of land and a total of 78 horse stalls, equipped with air conditioning and heating.
Home to the Liberty Equestrian team, the facility is also available for any Liberty student to use. When asked what advice she would give to someone interested in giving horseback riding a shot, Steptoe described the unique experience of horseback riding.
“No matter how much you know, there is always so much to learn,” Steptoe said. “It is a lot of work, but (it is) so much fun and so rewarding.”
The Equestrian Center teams with the Kinesiology department to offer lessons for beginners, as well as more advanced
There are trails stretching for miles in the nearby mountains where students can take 30-45 minute rides. According to the Equestrian Center’s website, trail rides are available Saturdays at 12 p.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m., and are free of charge to students.
One of the captains of the Western Equestrian team, senior Kayla Sims, also encourages people to try horseback riding.
“I would certainly say it’s … worth it, and it’s never too late to start riding,” Sims said. “Liberty has presented students with an amazing opportunity.”
Back in the 2011 school year, according to Western Equestrian Coach Lauren Eagles, the Equestrian Center was solely a place for casual riders.
Seeing the opportunity, the school proceeded to expand the facility and its uses until an official equestrian team was formed.
“We started with only a couple of horses and a small facility, and over the past five years it has really blossomed into what it is today,” Eagles said.
The Equestrian Center has updated its buildings and resources since 2011.
Some of the new resources included making one of the largest indoor arenas in Virginia, an expanded outdoor arena, and new team barns and locker rooms.
For veteran rider Steptoe, the additions to the center have made great improvements to what was in place when she first came
“When I started at Liberty, there was just the one eight-stall barn and the outdoor arena,” Steptoe said. “As construction grew, we eventually were riding in a 100×100 makeshift arena for most of the year.”
The two senior riders are thankful for their sport and for the people that support their participation.
When asked about their plans after graduation, both Sims and Steptoe planned to keep horses in mind.
Sims, who aspires to become an equine veterinarian, made clear her appreciation for her equestrian experiences.
“Riding has given me countless opportunities for the future and (has) given me many lifelong friends along the way,” Sims said. “It’s something I know will always be a part of my life.”
Steptoe hopes to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, have a minor in music and possibly write for an equine
“My coach, fellow captains and teammates have made such an impact on me through riding, and … have given me so much,” Steptoe said.
“I have met so many talented and kind people through riding and LU’s barn that have encouraged my growth, not only as a rider, but also as a Christian and a person.”
Klinker is a feature reporter.