Feb 19, 2020

Eventing at NC State Treasures Horsemanship and Friendship

By Mikayla Mather - NC State University
Katie Younce, Jenna Marrocco, Emily Dressler, Liza Bunce, Maddie Edwards, and Mikayla Mather pictured at the World Equestrian Games supporting Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg! Photo courtesy of the NC State Eventing Team.

Eventing at NC State was founded in 2016 and we currently have 18 undergraduate members as well as a supportive group of alumni riders. We are proud to be the first intercollegiate team in North Carolina located at the heart of the 1862 Land Grant Institution, NC State University. We have riders just beginning their eventing careers as well as those that are seasoned competitors, competing from Maiden through Training level. No matter what level they are competing, we cheer just as loud for each of our riders. We truly have built a team based on treasured horsemanship and friendship.

We primarily have our clinics at our home base, Portofino Equestrian Center, where we work closely with our coach, Aaron Hill. We are lucky to have such a beautiful facility and an experienced trainer to help us reach our goals. Each of our rider’s board and train with whomever they choose and many members trailer into Portofino on a regular basis to take lessons with Aaron. We try to schedule monthly clinics around everyone’s busy school and horse schedules. We train hard as student athletes on a daily basis to prepare for intercollegiate events. We are lucky enough that, through sponsors and fundraising, we are able to support our members by reimbursing entry fees and providing accommodations at shows.

Katie Younce and Mystic Love Song winning FENCE Novice HT and qualifying them to compete at the AEC in 2019! Liz Crawley Photography Photo courtesy of the NC State Eventing Team.

As we look back at 2019, the first intercollegiate event of the year was Southern Pines Horse Trials at Carolina Horse Park. We had four undergraduates and one alumnus competing and their top finishes landed them in second place of the team competition. We sent two teams and an alumnus to FENCE HT with over half of our members placing in the top five of their divisions. We sent four riders to the USEA Intercollegiate Championships at Chattahoochee Hills and they placed twelfth as a team with all riders placing in the top eight of their divisions. In the fall, we sent a team of three riders to Tryon Riding and Hunt Club where they finished fifth as a team. Our last team challenge was Virginia International & HT where we sent three undergraduates and one alumnus. We continue to look forward to the 2020 season and are proud of all of our competitors over the past year. It was a great one full of many learning moments, personal bests, and team bonding. We have had many personal placements throughout the year, but our priority is always to take care of our horses and each other. We always look forward to the team spirit, because that is something we love to indulge in. From our wolf masks to our ears and tails, you will always be able to spot a member of the Wolfpack in our red and white!

Ruth Huggins and Top Gun in the Training division at Carolina Horse Park War Horse Event Series, one of our favorite schooling shows! High Time Photography Photo courtesy of the NC State Eventing Team.

We spend a lot of time out of the saddle with each other and have team social events each month. Some of our favorite socials from the past year have included bonfires, going to the NC State Fair, pizza and movie nights, and team dinners. I personally look forward to these events because as a student, many of my peers don’t get the intense time management and juggling it takes to be a full-time student and a full-time rider. This can often prove difficult to balance but having friends that are having similar college experiences can make you feel a bit more at ease. Riding is a huge part of each of our lives, but we must also remember to take care of our mental health and be there for one another.

We really work hard to volunteer and fundraise in order to continue to support our riders and our community. We do a great deal of our volunteering at Portofino when they have their fall and spring Horse Trails. Our members fulfill many of the positions necessary to run a successful event and in return we are able to use the premier facility throughout the year. Much of our fundraising is at Carolina Horse Park where we often sell merchandise or food and drinks. We typically volunteer at the Tack Exchange twice a year at the NC State fairgrounds and sell raffle tickets and merchandise. The team also collects tack donations that we clean up and tag to enter in the tack exchange. Each fall we work with Yankee Candle for an annual fundraiser where we get a large portion of the proceeds. With the help of our sponsors, donations, and fundraisers we are able to function and support our college equestrians. We know that without this it would make competing in college more difficult and we are very grateful to be a part of this dedicated organization.

Mikayla Mather and Show Bizz at Carolina Horse Park’s War Horse Event Series competing at Novice where they placed third. Brant Gamma Photography Photo courtesy of the NC State Eventing Team.

Our goals are to continue to do what we love, together. We strive to help our riders reach their personal goals such as moving up a level or qualifying for AEC. We continue to value our professional relationships and hope to form lasting partnerships with our local horse community. We have a lot of strong riders from diverse backgrounds and we hope that as our team grows, we are able to recruit some upper level talent as well. We value taking care of each other and our horses and that is something that comes before winning ribbons any day. My vision for the team is to continue to grow, but also to stay grounded.

What makes this team unique is that we are truly friends who care for each other and one another’s horses. Our group chat is an outlet to bounce ideas or discuss issues we might be having. Many of us spend a great deal of time together getting dinner or studying at the library. Plenty of our members even live together and continue to be friends after graduation. My favorite part of this team is not only the closeness we share in our sport, but the diversity of our goals and pursuits. A few of us are pursuing vet school, law school, PA school, and other different degree paths. We are students first and therefore we are able to bring many unique points of view to the team. This makes us stronger and gives us a more robust outlook. The team members are able to share our passion for horses and support each other in each of our own ventures. After being a part of the NC State Eventing Team, you will have friends for life, a network of scholars, and memories to last a lifetime.

Megan VonCanon, Ruth Huggins, Ashlan Jolley, Mikayla Mather, Aaron Hill, Emily Dressler, and Sierra Simmerman at Portofino for a team clinic with Aaron! Baballor Photography/Liza Bunce Photo courtesy of the NC State Eventing Team.

About the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program

The USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program was established in 2014 to provide a framework within which eventing teams and individual competitors could flourish at universities and colleges across the country. The USEA offers a discount of $25 on annual USEA memberships for current students of universities and colleges registered as Affiliates with the USEA and many events across the country now offer Intercollegiate Team Challenges throughout the year, where collegiate eventers can compete individually as well as on teams with their fellow students.

In Intercollegiate Team Challenges, each rider’s score is multiplied by a coefficient appropriate for their level to account for differences in level difficulty and then the individual scores are added together to determine the team score. Only the best three individual scores will count towards the team score, so teams of four will have one “drop” score. Click here to learn more about the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program.

The USEA wants to feature your collegiate eventing team in our Intercollegiate Eventing Spotlight series! Please send your story and photos to Claire Kelley at [email protected] to be featured.

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Quick Links: June 22-23

Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.

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New Years Eve 2015. I was laying in bed, waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square, thinking about the previous year, and listening to my husband snore. A few months before, I had lost my heart horse to ring bone. He’d had to permanently retire before he was even 10 and went back to his breeders to be a pasture puff for the rest of his life.

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