Conversations with a Ram: Equestrian Team

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Andrea Robinson (Club Co-Founder)
Hometown: Guelph, ON
Program: Business
Sport: Equestrian

Allison Hurley (Team Captain)
Hometown: Brockville, ON
Program: Sociology
Sport: Equestrian

What’s athletic about equestrian? Isn’t the horse the real athlete?

Andrea: Yeah, the horse is definitely an athlete. But you have to train and ride it. My horse at home is fast, crazy and strong. When I ride him, I have to use all my upper-body strength and clench just to control him. You have to have a tight body. Riding is an amazing ab workout, like I feel like I went to the gym to train for UFC. We have strong legs, strong calves, strong everything.

Allison: There are workouts specifically designed for equestrians. You need core strength, you need strong quads, and you’re going to need your arms to hold the horse. You don’t just hop on a horse and steer it around.

Andrea: Every stride the horse takes, your body has to make it do it. Sometimes you have a horse that will drift to the side, and you have to move your body in a way that keeps it straight. You’re controlling an animal that weighs over 1,000lbs.

Allison: Riders who know what they’re doing make it look it easy. We want it to look like we’re doing nothing, but it really takes your whole body.

Andrea, you’re one of the co-founders of the Ryerson club/team. Explain how you put it together and how it’s grown.

Andrea: My home barn was the base for the University of Guelph show team, so I knew it existed but we didn’t have it at Ryerson. Last year, I talked to people from the OUEA about putting a team together; at that point it was only me. I put something on facebook, and I heard from Caitlin Strelioff (the other co-founder). She said “she’d love to do this”, and we started getting other people from facebook and twitter. It grew and grew because people like Allison kept hearing about it and wanting to join.

Allison: Whenever I have to introduce myself in class I’ll say “I’m Allison and I’m on the equestrian team, and everyone is like ‘we have an equestrian team?’” Or I’ll wear my team jacket and people will ask about it, so a lot of its just word of mouth.

Downtown Toronto isn’t really ideal for riding horses. Where do you practice?

Andrea: We practice at the Pause Awhile Equestrian Centre in Stouffville. The owners give us a really good deal, and they help coach us.

What does being a part of the team mean to you?

Allison: This team is definitely my escape from the city. Some people play instruments, I ride horses. I grew up riding all the time, so living downtown is so different. I miss the grass!

How does interuniversity competition work since you aren’t in the OUA or CIS?

Andrea: We compete in the OUEA (Ontario University Equestrian Association). It’s a student-run organization, but almost every university in Ontario is in it. We’re in the Eastern Zone, and we have about two shows (competitions) every month.

Allison: Each show you gain points towards making the finals. You get eight points for placing first at a competition, seven for second, etc. You need eight points in total to qualify for the finals, so if you win one competition, you’re automatically in.

Andrea: We’re only allowed to send two riders per division to each show, but as long as they qualify and get their eight points, we can send as many as we want to the finals.

Do you need your own horse to be on the team or in the club?

Allison: No, we use the horses at Pause to practice, and we accept riders from any level of experience. At shows you’re never riding your own horse. You get a random horse each time, and you don’t get to practice with it before you go.

What is your goal when you’re at a show – is it all about winning?

Allison: You can’t go in with that mindset, like you’re going to come in first place every time. Not having the same horse makes it harder.  In other circuits, you’d be using a horse you’ve been riding for years, so you’d know its strengths and weaknesses. Getting on a horse you’ve never seen is a success in itself.  As long as I run the course well and feel good about it, it’s a win.

Andrea: Yeah, you’re going up against at least 20 people each time, so you won’t always place. Sometimes you’ll have a bad day, and sometimes you’ll have a bad horse.

Michelle Monkhouse’s death has obviously left a big hole. What did she mean to the team?

Andrea: Michelle was a part of the original group of people – when there were only six of us. She came to every event, every show. We’d have a blast with her, and she’d always give it her all – not only on a horse, but when we’d be hanging out or singing karaoke. She was a great girl and a great personality. We miss her a lot.

Allison: I first met her at a show, shortly after I had heard about the team. I was there with a couple of the girls to watch, and she was just so welcoming.

Andrea: She actually rode at Pause, the barn where we ride now. That was her home barn, so it’s just kind of special because her presence is there.

What’s your life outside of school and equestrian?

Allison: I work full-time as a barista at Starbucks. So I might start at 4 a.m. and work until 9 or 10, and then have class all day. I clean a lot – I live with three guys who clearly have never picked up a dish.

Andrea: I work for Ryerson Athletics – Sports Info and Media. And I do a lot of behind the scenes for the team – setting up the tryouts, collecting fees, planning for shows, and promoting the club to other people.

It’s a Friday night, what are you doing?

Allison: Usually I just stay in. But if I want to go out with the guys, I’ll be at a pub. If I’m with the girls and want to dance my face off, I’ll be somewhere downtown.

Andrea: I might be a homebody and watch a movie, or I’ll go out for drinks or dinner. I love going to the patio at Remy’s, or Hemingway’s.

Andrea, you did an exchange in France last year – tell us about that.

Andrea: I went to school in a place called Lille, which was an hour train-ride north of Paris, and an hour from London, so I could go anytime I wanted. Belgium was like 20 minutes away, and you can fly almost anywhere from Brussels for really cheap – I went to Morocco for about 20 Euros ($28 CDN).

It was an amazing experience. You pay the same amount for tuition as you would at Ryerson, and it’s about the same as renting a place in downtown Toronto.  Obviously you work and save up money for other expenses like travelling, but even if you don’t, it’s still amazing because you still get to experience living in another country.

We’ve all heard about the amazing food in Europe. Eat anything not-so-good?

Andrea:  I had blood pudding. Eww! (laughs). Its blood, and they add stuff to it to make it thicker and cook it inside the intestines of the animal and then it’s like a sausage. The menu was in French so I didn’t know what I was ordering. I liked it – a little bit – until I knew what it was, and then I wanted to die! I couldn’t eat it after that.

What is your dream?

Allison: To get married and have three kids, maybe live on a ranch somewhere. I want my children to ride horses too. I want to be either a teacher or a teen counsellor.

Andrea: I want to do something in business. I’ve worked so many crappy jobs and have had so many crappy bosses, so I just want to have a job that I love and want to go to everyday. And I want to keep travelling.


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