Equestrian team’s grit and determination has them riding home

For Rebecca Maine and Jennifer Slate, riding horses has always been just a part of life. Their passion for horse riding is what led them, as well as many others, to join the University of Tennessee’s equestrian team.

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For Rebecca Maine and Jennifer Slate, riding horses has always been just a part of life. Their passion for horse riding is what led them, as well as many others, to join the University of Tennessee’s equestrian team.

The UT equestrian team is comprised of dozens of riders who compete in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). According to the team’s website, the team was founded in 1975 to foster competitive horsemanship skills. Slate is the president, while Maine serves as treasurer. They help make important decisions for the team, all while doing what they love. However, all the fun doesn’t come without its challenges. The equestrian team is independent and not funded by UT.

Photo by Cody McClure
Photo by Cody McClure

“We do a lot of fund raising and community service to get our name out there,” said Maine. “Putting on a horse show costs thousands of dollars and we have to come up with that ourselves.”

Maine, who has been showing horses since the age of six, says anyone can join the team, but riders are required to pay dues and must be in good academic standing with the university. People who join the team come from all across the board. Some are used to trail riding, others have shown horses all their lives and some have little or no experience at all.

The equestrian team participates in shows all around the state, at places like Sewanee, Murray, Middle Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech. Their coach, Carol Hodge, is instrumental in making the whole thing work by providing a farm that is home to approximately 12 horses, as well as several chickens, cats, dogs and even a guinea pig.

While it is an exhilarating experience, Slate says that being a part of the team is about more than just riding and showing. It is about personal growth.

“It helps girls academically and helps girls grow and learn responsibility,” said Slate.

She continued, laughing, “Horses are a lot of work.”

Maine added that the experience is also good not only for girls, but for the guys on the team. While the equestrian team is unquestionably female-driven, there are a handful of males who give it a shot.

“The guys that join really love it. The weird thing is that there are a lot of little boys and adult professional males who ride, but we’re missing the in-between,” said Maine.

Photo by Cody McClure
Photo by Cody McClure

This weekend presents a new challenge for UT’s equestrian team. Not only will they will be participating in their first big Western show of the year, but it will be the first one ever hosted by UT.

“This Western show is the first one ever put on by our team in our entire history. It’s a big deal,” said Slate. “We have only had about two months to plan it and usually they take about a year to plan.”

This weekend’s IHSA Western Show will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Roane State Expo Center.

Featured image by Cody McClure

Edited by Courtney Anderson