Sep 10, 2020

Going Back to School with the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program

By Claire Kelley - USEA Staff
Members of the University of Kentucky Eventing Team at a competition this summer. JJ Sillman Photo.

Schools across the country are opening up for the fall semester, but this fall looks entirely different due to COVID-19. For the USEA Collegiate Members, many of their classes are now online, their team meetings are held via Zoom, their campuses are filled with face masks and hand sanitizer, and their barns are enforcing social distancing.

Six schools from various parts of the country, all with eventing teams, share what it’s like adjusting to the new normal for fall 2020. Speaking on behalf of each school is Angela Cricelli, the Vice President of the Cal Poly Eventing Team; Anna Suhul, the co-captain of the University of Findlay Eventing Team; Kaley Rak, the captain of the University of Florida Eventing Team; Megan Price-Williams, the President of the Georgia Gwinnett College Eventing Team; Dana Lesesne, the eventing team’s director at Randolph-Macon College; and Jackie LeMastus, the President of the University of Kentucky Eventing Team.

While all six of these schools are affiliates of the USEA Intercollegiate Eventing Program, the USEA defaults to the COVID-19 policies and procedures already in place for each individual school/university. Therefore, each eventing team might have a different perspective on the fall semester due to the school’s specific guidelines.

University of Findlay having a socially distant team meeting. Photo courtesy of Sue King.

What is your school doing differently for the fall semester?

Cal Poly: “Fall this quarter at Cal Poly is primarily virtual. We are at a learn-by-doing university that emphasizes hands-on work. Due to this emphasis, the university is offering a few labs in-person where students would not be able to adequately learn the content virtually. However, all other classes and labs are virtual. Additionally, campus activities/gatherings and any sort of club traveling is restricted. Due to this limitation, the Cal Poly Eventing Team will not be able to hold any team challenges this calendar year or in-person events. Despite this, we hope our members still come together and virtually support one another.”

University of Findlay: “The University of Findlay's classes are partly in-person and partly online this semester, so luckily, we are still able to ride in our equestrian program every day.”

University of Florida: “Classes at the University of Florida start back up on August 31. Classes are primarily being held virtually, with a few small classes or labs being held in person.”

Georgia Gwinnett College: “Classes went online in the spring semester and will continue to be online for the fall semester.”

University of Kentucky: “Some members (like myself) have predominantly online classes with a few in-person/on-campus classes scattered throughout the week, others have most of their classes in-person, and some of our members chose to stay in their home states through the pandemic and take classes completely online.”

Randolph-Macon College: “Randolph-Macon has a phased move-in over four weeks to make every effort to ensure that students and families are safe. During this time, all classes are virtual, and the college will move to a hybrid model after that. In addition, students will have two seven-week ‘semesters’ in the fall, so that two courses will be taken during each seven-week period.”

Randolph Macon College Eventing Team member Morgyn Johnson and her horse, Peter Parker, with team member Katherine Delaney. Photo courtesy of the Randolph Macon College Eventing Team.

How has your eventing team still stayed safe and active?

Cal Poly: “So far, the team has been at its typical yearly off-season, with it being summer and no school. However, when our classes resume in mid-September, we plan to resume the team meetings virtually over Zoom. We plan to encourage our team members to attend Zoom meetings. We look forward to maintaining team morale virtually so that when restrictions are lifted and we can begin to resume in-person activities as a team, we can seamlessly transition back into typical team events.”

University of Findlay: “We're doing daily temperature checks along with wearing masks and socially distancing in the barn, so it’s a bit different to not get to see everyone’s smiles, but we’re all feeling grateful that we’re still able to safely do what we love. Our team has a slightly smaller roster this year so that we can remain safe and in small groups for practices.”

University of Florida: “The team tends to slow down in the summer as out-of-state members return home and the Florida heat takes over. However, we stay in contact virtually to update each other on what we have been doing with our four-legged partners. As shows began to start back up in June after the initial COVID-19 cancellations, we’ve had numerous members out showing, lessoning, and getting ramped back up for the fall semester.”

Georgia Gwinnett College: “Team members have continued their training individually and our group lessons have been put on hold for now. The main way we have been able to stay in touch with each other has been through our club's group chat, where members have sent messages and pictures about their rides so we can all stay connected.”

University of Kentucky: “Our eventing team has stayed active by participating in USEA recognized horse trials, local mini-trials, and keeping up with the team via Zoom meetings as well! We are going to be hosting some fundraisers this fall as well for members to participate in and volunteer at in order to get the team working together and bonding!”

Randolph-Macon College: “There are lots of new rules at the barn, including not using common areas such as grooming bays and disinfecting wash bays after use. Our coach, Ashley Adams, really doubled down on training during these past seven months, coming up with creative gymnastics, grid work, and flatwork lessons that she was able to share with students. The entire team has stayed in constant communication, continuing to make plans for fall fundraising, competition, and ways that we will hold each other accountable and for the seven new freshmen that joined the team this week.”

University of Findlay Eventing Team members all masked up for an in-person meeting. Photo courtesy of Sue King.

How do you safely hold team meetings and team gatherings?

Cal Poly: “Zoom meetings and group texts are our current platform for team meetings.”

University of Findlay: “We’re trying to move as much as we can to online, so things like informational meetings and team bonding activities look a little bit different, but we’re kicking on. When the team does gather in-person, we wear masks, socially distance, and stay outside whenever possible.”

University of Florida: “For the fall semester, team meetings will be held exclusively on Zoom. Lessons and shows will continue, with the addition of required face masks and social distancing.”

Georgia Gwinnett College: “We haven't had any formal meetings since March, but I love that we've been able to still communicate regularly though our group chat.”

University of Kentucky: "Currently all team meetings are held via Zoom, bi-weekly to keep all of our members safe and following university guidelines.”

Randolph-Macon College: “Team meetings are now held at the barn, so that we can social distance and be outside, instead of the meeting space on campus we previously used.”

Hannah Warner, a member of the University of Kentucky Eventing Team, at a competition over the summer. JJ Sillman Photo.

Can you share the experience of managing school, eventing, and being a team member during COVID-19?

Cal Poly: “These are uncertain times for everyone, but I think the eventing team is lucky to know we all have one another to lean on if we need a shoulder. We all come from different backgrounds but can unite together as a group of Cal Poly Equestrians who have a love for the sport of three-day eventing and an even greater love for our four-legged partners. The future is unknown for everyone, but we can rely on our eventing community to support us as we figure it out.”

University of Findlay: “These changing times have made me appreciate my team so much more. It’s me and my co-captain Nicole Stewart's senior year, and in a time of so much uncertainty, we're incredibly grateful for every socially distant, masked-up moment we get to spend with our Findlay Eventing Team family.”

University of Florida: “I have found that the most important thing during this uncertain time has been to be adaptable. Spring brought on an abundance of changes as classes switched to an online format and meticulously planned show schedules had to be scrapped. Team members leaned on each other for support and we focused on keeping ourselves and our communities safe. We continue to forge ahead and while we humans like to get fixated on schedules, our horses sure don’t care!”

Georgia Gwinnett College: “With a sport club like ours, it's left us with some questions about what is really possible outside of individual training right now. Communicating with the college about restrictions on clubs, all while trying to get reregistered as an organization, plan any possible events, and figure out how to navigate the new format for classes has been stressful. But thankfully I've had the support of my team behind me, and I'm glad that we've been able to maintain those relationships through all the changes. I'm looking forward to seeing how we continue to grow this year!”

University of Kentucky: “With all the rules and guidelines put into place because of COVID-19, our return to school looks a lot different for our members than it has in past years. We have had to get creative and really think through ways to bring our team together, have them get to know everyone (we have a massive 80 members on the team this year), and give members a sense of community on UK’s campus, throughout the pandemic. Luckily, I get to lead and have the help of a fantastic group of five other student officers who work together to run the team and make sure that our members are staying safe and enjoying their time at UK as a member of the eventing team. As always, GO CATS!”

Randolph-Macon College: “Though COVID-19 has altered everyone’s idea of how 2020 would go, it has not dissuaded Randolph-Macon Eventing from giving its team members a strong support system during such uncertain times. Through Zoom team meetings, FaceTime dates, and socially distanced rides together, our team members have worked to keep connections strong and their riding progressing. This year will definitely be a new experience for all of us but Randolph-Macon Eventing is ready to navigate these uncharted times together as a team.”

The USEA would like to wish all of our collegiate members a safe return as they head back to school for the fall semester!

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. Many events across the country now offer Intercollegiate Team Challenges 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.

The USEA would like to thank Bates Saddles, EQuine AMerica Magazine, FITS, World Equestrian Brands, FLAIR, and US Equestrian for sponsoring the Intercollegiate Eventing Program.

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