This fall, the University of South Carolina Aiken named John Abbott as the coach of its new riding team. The team will practice at John’s Bridlewood Farm and is expected to start competing regularly in Intercollegiate Horse Show Association shows starting this February. The team has already been to two competitions, the first at Berry College in Rome, Ga. on October 23 and the second just a week later at Lander College in Greenwood, S.C.
The new riding team is a division of the USCA Equestrian Club, which has about a dozen members. The team itself, which requires tryouts and regular lessons at Bridlewood, has just three members at the moment, but John expects that number to grow in the coming months. The IHSA offers competitions in hunt seat as well as Western riding, but John says that right now all of the team members are English riders.
“I hope to build it up into a big program,” he says. “Already, I’ve given tours of the barn to a handful of girls who are considering coming to USC Aiken next year and want to bring their horses with them.” In addition, John says that about half a dozen members of the equestrian club have started taking lessons and expressed an interest in trying out for the team.
Intercollegiate Horse Shows are a democratic affair. In regular horse shows, riders bring their own horses and compete on them, which has the effect of favoring riders who have greater financial resources: a less talented or dedicated rider with a fancier horse will often beat a more talented or dedicated rider with a run-of-the-mill horse. In intercollegiate competition, the host school provides the horses and all the riders compete on comparable mounts. In fact, they draw which horse they will ride out of a hat shortly before entering the ring.
“I think it’s a great program,” says John. “It puts everyone on an equal footing, and it gives young people who might not have the resources to compete an opportunity show and get a taste for it.”
For more information about the USCA Equestrian Club or the Riding Team, contact Sarah Wach at firstname.lastname@example.org.