Equestrian club dominates in Guelph tourney

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The UWO Equestrian club

Courtesy of Morgan Chapman

I THOUGHT THOSE 'W' SIGNS DISAPPEARED AFTER ORIENTATION WEEK. The UWO Equestrian club represents Western in a number of tournaments, including a recent competition at Guelph.

Western’s Equestrian Club is well known to competitor schools as the dominant force in tournaments. Third-year rider Holly Hayman and her teammates have lived up to that reputation.

“We probably have the top team in Ontario,” she said. “We go to these competitions and people are like ‘Oh no, there are the Western girls, they showed up,’ and our girls pretty much dominate.”

The club’s first competition this year was held at Guelph University; the squad of over 84 members finished first overall, up against five other teams in the event.

“We were the top team [in Guelph],” Hayman said. “We were really successful last year; we had high point riders in every division ... so we are pretty excited about that.”

An intense blend of show jumping and a flat course combine make up the standard equestrian competition in Ontario, but that is not all Western’s club does.

“We have a lot of different events we do [that are] for different interests,” Western’s Jennifer Butkus said. “Riding is such a huge sport and there are so many different aspects of it. We try to offer something for every student based on their interests.”

The club also offers lessons to those not as experienced and those wanting more experience at Shadowlane Stables in London.

“We set up riding lessons for the kids in the club,” Butkus said. “We go on trail rides and we are going on a trip to the Royal Winter Fair this year.”

Hayman added the lessons are very effective given the quality of coaching.

“We bring in professional coaches,” she said. “We bring some up from the [United] States, so that should be exciting.”

Practice has paid off for Hayman, who will compete overseas this winter. Canada selects three people from across the country to compete " Hayman and the other riders will travel to the Nations Cup Competition in England on New Year’s Eve.

Her experience abroad should help the club back home in competition.

“There are eight teams [in the interuniversity league] and we are all competing against each other,” Butkus said. “There are a large number of shows this year and Western is going to be hosting the championships in March for the league.”

Western’s Equestrian Club has been around for the past two years and is hoping to become a varsity team within the next five.

“Western has a huge number of people that ride,” Hayman said. “If you are a rider in Ontario, Guelph and Western are the two hot spots to go to.”

“We are hoping within the next five years to make it a North American varsity sport and not just a U.S. one.”

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