Despite being run without any school funding, the newly formed Ryerson University equestrian team is making giant leaps. Gabriel Lee reports
Last year, the Ryerson University equestrian team (RUEC) was nothing more then an ambitious idea. But this year it became a reality and the rookie team is making big strides thanks to some dedicated riders.
“I think it’s really special to be in sync with a four-legged 1500-pound animal that has a mind of its own. You have to be trusting at times,” explains Jacquelline Stapells, a third-year psychology student who rides for Ryerson’s equestrian team. “I don’t think that you can really compare riding a horse to any other sport out there.””
Unlike the basketball, hockey or soccer team, most students body aren’t aware of the first-year equestrian team, probably because fact that the club is not even listed on Ryerson’s website.
“We tried to get in with Ryerson Athletics to make the club an official sport club along with the golf, dragon boating, and cheerleading team [but] that didn’t happen in time so we decided to run it independently,” explained Andrea Robinson, a third-year business management student who along with Caitlin Strelioff co-founded the Ryerson University Equestrian Team.
Nevertheless, Stappels, who has riding experience, is proud to be a part of Ryerson’s first Equestrian team she feels the team is bringing a part of the country lifestyle to Ryerson’s hectic downtown campus.
While they are the newest member of the Ontario University Equestrian Association (OUEA), many of the other schools that Ryerson competes against, such as McMaster and Waterloo, were only created five years ago, in 2006 and while they are the new kids on the block, Ryerson is competing against some fairly new teams. However, in addition to becoming the newest member of the 12 team league, Ryerson’s equestrian club is the only team without a listed coach or captain on their website.
Due to the expansive nature of the club, the team did not hold tryouts this year. Instead, they decided to welcome riders regardless of their experience or skill level.
Because of this, the team has attracted a good mixture of both riders with experience and riders who have only recently started to ride a couple of years ago.
“Every member who joins contributes to the teams success in some way,” said Stappels. “The more people who join the more recognition the team will gain.“
While Robinson agrees that expanding the club is important, but acknowledged that the team will be holding tryouts next semester.
“This year we just wanted to get our numbers up and keep growing, so we wanted to give everyone a chance to compete,” said Robinson. “We hope to hold tryouts for next year as only two people can compete in each of the four divisions.”
Halfway through the 2010-2011 season, Ryerson finds themselves near the bottom of the league as they currently sit in 10th place with only four competitions remaining in the season. Despite the team’s poor ranking, the riders’ individual results have been erratic.
At the Queen’s University Show, which took place in October, Stapells finished in second place while fellow rider Laura Gilligan finished in third place.
However, Marisa Millman finished in eighth place at the team’s latest competition at Brock University.
“Our first semester as a team has worked out fantastically. Being that we are a new team I think our results have exceeded our expectations,” said Robinson.
“This is a new experience [for] all of us and the team has been extremely successful. There are so many talented and confident riders on the team, I feel as though we can only improve.”
While Strelioff is just as enthusiastic about the progress of the team, she acknowledged that it has been hard to overcome the lack of proper funding.
“The biggest thing we are up against is funding,” she said. “It’s expensive for a student to ride.”
Seeing as how the team has no funding from the university, all riders must pay for their own lessons, $45, as well as their entry into a show, $50.”
Despite this challenge, Strelioff is happy with the team’s season to date.
“At the beginning of the season I thought we would be one of those teams that rode just for fun,” she said. “But we have exceeded my expectations. [With] higher level riders and some more development we could be [so much] more.”
Photo courtesy of the Ryerson Equestrian Team