Penn State Western Equestrian Team Earning National Recognition
At a school as big as Penn State, some organizations fly under the radar despite enjoying undeniable success — like Penn State’s equestrian team.
Penn State actually has not one, but two different equestrian teams. While only two years old and a new organization compared to its English style counterpart, the Western Equestrian Team has had its fair share of recent accomplishments.
After competing at the semifinals last weekend in Ohio, the team will send two of its riders to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Nationals in Kentucky this May. Seth and Ashlynn Rice, a sophomore and a class of 2015 graduate representing Penn State as an alumni rider respectively, will represent the team. Team members will compete for a first place title and the chance to represent Penn State at a national level. Among the other members of the team who competed at the semi-final competition are Ashley Getsay, Alaina Zappas, Sydney Vogt, Shanley Benetz, and Jenn Kellogg.
Chris McElea coaches the young team and currently holds lessons at Eagle Valley Equestrian Center in Milesburg, PA. Generally, the entire team holds meetings biweekly and members take one lesson per week, but they are encouraged to take more if they so choose. Members enjoy the community atmosphere that being a part of the group creates, as well as the air of constant encouragement.
“My favorite aspect about being on the team is that it gives riders of any experience level and any financial background the chance to compete, even nationally,” captain Seth Rice said.
Like Penn State’s English Equestrian team, the newer team is comprised of riders at all different skill levels. Even if a student has no previous riding experience, there’s an opportunity somewhere on the team.
“There’s people who hadn’t even been on a horse prior to this year and are doing great and having fun riding every week and being part of the team,” team member Kirby Eavey said. “The team is like a tight-knit family that is welcoming to newcomers and encouraging to one another.”
According to Rice, the group hopes to increase its success and eventually compete at major competitions — including Nationals — as an entire team instead of only sending individual riders. It also wants to strengthen its involvement with THON and make the team atmosphere more family-oriented.
“We have a lot of goals to accomplish as we continue developing the team as a new organization,” Rice said. “We want to get our name out there so everyone who might be interested knows about us and has an option to pursue a passion.”