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Fri, 2017-01-06 10:33

University of Florida Introduces Gator Eventing in the Sunshine State

Authored By: Ashley Johnson
The University of Florida Eventing Team. Photo courtesy of the UF Eventing Team.

With the ringing in of 2017, The University of Florida’s Eventing Team is halfway through its inaugural first year. The idea of bringing an eventing team to the University of Florida (UF) was first kicked around at the end of the fall semester in 2015. With the rise of collegiate eventing, adding a team at UF made sense. There is a very strong pre-veterinary and equine program and the university is forty minutes from Ocala, Florida, one of the country’s eventing Meccas.

The UF Eventing Team operates at a club level under the larger umbrella of the UF Equestrian Team. In the spring of 2016, the UF Equestrian Team voted Anna Moscovitz and Ted Britten-Kelly to be co-captains. Ted and Anna then asked me to be the team coach. I jumped at the opportunity, as eventing at a university level wasn’t around when I attended Rutgers University as an undergraduate. I choose Rutgers so that I could be close to home and continue riding while I was in college. With this new venture, I loved the idea of students at UF having a more formal opportunity to continue competing while they were in school.  

Team member Elle Strote. Photo courtesy of the UF Eventing Team. 

Over the summer of 2016, UF registered with the USEA Intercollegiate Program as an affiliate university. The USEA’s Intercollegiate program is still developing and has that new car smell. As we started looking for competitions to attend, we saw that there were several Intercollegiate Challenges hosted in Area III, including at Poplar Place and Chattahoochee Hills, but there were none in Florida.  The team also looked at the viability of competing at schooling shows in the area. We knew we were going to have a broad range of riders with different experience levels, and we wanted to have options for riders new to the sport but also be able to meet the needs of the more skilled and experienced riders. We also wanted to be able to compete against other universities.

After some thought, we reached out to Richard Trayford of Equiventures. To our great delight, he enthusiastically supported the idea of an Intercollegiate Challenge in Florida and agreed to host us at the Ocala Fall Horse Trials on October 15, 2016 at the Florida Horse Park.  We were able to field a team, including Megan McNatt and Ted Britten-Kelly at beginner novice level and Jill Bobel at preliminary level.  All three riders placed first or second in their divisions.  In the fall we also had Elle Strote complete the CCI* at the Ocala Jockey Club, Tara Astoske compete in her first horse trials at the Partners of the Park schooling show in October, and Kelly Clark compete in a recognized novice competition at Rocking Horse. In all, the team has eleven dedicated members. 

Photo by Shannon Brinkman. 

Although there are only a small number of venues hosting intercollegiate competitions, we believe this allows us room to build, in both the quality and quantity of competitions and in the number of schools that participate. This year, in preparation for the October challenge, co-captain Ted Britten-Kelly started reaching out to other schools with known programs, as well as every Florida school that runs an equestrian program. For the spring semester of 2017, we have targeted several USEA recognized competitions to compete at as a team, including Chattahoochee Hills, Exmoor and the Ocala Horse Trials. Richard Trayford and Equiventures have been wonderful in supporting the concept of running Intercollegiate Challenges at his shows.

With such a large number of events taking place in Florida during the school year, it is only a matter of time before Florida’s other schools start forming their own teams. With our mild weather and excellent access to top caliber shows during the school year, we have no doubt that Florida will become one of the top spots for collegiate eventing in the country! 

To learn more about the UF Eventing Team, check out their Facebook page

 

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