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A Spirit of Horsemanship
They share a love of horses and horseback riding and a spirit to share that passion with others.
The members of the SU English Equestrian Club compete in eight shows a year and also do volunteer work, acquainting young people with horses and assisting on a farm of rescued animals.
The team recruits new members each year during tryouts in September, but it’s skill plus something else that helps members make the team.
“We’ll have anywhere between 12 members to this year we have 19, depending on our horsepower, what levels we need and riding ability,” says Denise Van Patten, who coaches the team at her Baldwinsville horse farm, Smoke Tree Equestrian. “It’s also about attitude too, when working with the horses.”
For team member Emily Dengler of Baldwinsville, participating on the team and having been working with horses since the age of 7 gave her the confidence to recently enter and qualify for the national finals of the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association Horsemanship Quiz Challenge (HQC) presented by Sweet Briar College in Ohio.
Dengler, the club’s fundraising chair and a SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry junior, qualified to compete with the Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) college team through an online quiz about horsemanship. She then went to the challenge Nov. 15-17, which included a written exam and a 30-minute practicum that included handling a horse in a mock trial ride scenario.
“The practicum tested me in a way that I had never been tested before; it asked for a level of horsemanship—with top show horses—that I’m not used to giving, because I work with lesson horses,” Dengler says.
The event also included clinics in horsemanship and care, and Dengler was selected to work with a rising professional competing in the Emerging Athletes Program (EAP) National Training Session qualifying for zone and Individual competition, which was held in conjunction with the HQC.
“That was amazing because I got to work with one of the EAP riders and help him get his horse ready for the show,” Dengler says. “I didn’t walk away with a medal, but I had a great weekend.”
The SU English Equestrian Club can help riders build skills to pursue such opportunities.
“We have weekly lessons—in the fall we do twice a week, just so we can get even more of a workout and get in more practices before our shows,” Dengler says.
The team competes three weekends with two IHSA shows each in the fall and one weekend in the spring. Competitions are held at such college campuses as St. Lawrence, Cazenovia and SUNY Geneseo. The whole team attends the regional events, and then individuals often go on to compete at the national level.
“The away events are also a really good time to bond with the team members,” Dengler says.
The other component of the SU English Equestrian Club is its community outreach. In the spring, the team members host a Girl Scout camp. “We invite some local troops for a three-hour program in which we teach them about stable management and riding, and have arts and crafts,” Dengler says.
The team also volunteers two to three times a semester at Sunshine Horses, a local horse rescue in Syracuse, for which Dengler is the public relations and marketing co-chair.
For students with horse experience who are interested in getting involved, Dengler recommends trying out in September.
“If they are looking to just get into horses, I would suggest they take SU’s physical education course in horseback riding this spring. I took the course and it’s wonderful,” she says. “If they like the experience and want to participate as a team, try out next September. We’re always looking for new members.”