UNF Equestrian Club makes strides in first year of competition


By Jordan Harirchi
Assistant Sports Editor

The UNF Equestrian Club, created just a year ago, isn’t bucking around. Although it’s a newcomer to the sport, the team is already competing in collegiate events.

Anna Kirkpatrick, a UNF international studies junior and president of the Equestrian Club, has been involved with horse riding her whole life — she recognized that there were quite a few equestrian teams in Florida but not at UNF.

“We really needed to get the ball rolling in the region,” she said.

Kirkpatrick proceeded to make a Facebook page and placed fliers around campus to advertise the club. The first meeting yielded over 30 people.

Aspiring to compete, as well as house fans of the hoofed beasts, the club recruited dedicated riders and coaches, Kirkpatrick said. The 2011 fall semester was the club’s first semester of competition.

The club competes under the intercollegiate Horse Show Association. Horses are provided to riders at competitions, but designations are completely random. There are a lot of positives to the random drawing, said Amber Batteiger, a UNF communications senior and member of the club.

“They really test the ability of the rider,” she said.

But there are also negatives.

“Horses are just like people,” Batteiger said. “Some are crazy or lazy.”

The club does give many members a chance to ride expensive horses, Batteiger said.
Jazmin Woods, secretary of the club, grew up around horses. Initially, she thought she would have to give up her interest upon coming to UNF, but she soon found out otherwise.

Woods said it’s been a challenge competing because most of the riders just started taking lessons. Monetary challenges have also been an issue: the club and its members cannot afford various horse riding expenses, such as a $350 dollar helmet, she said.

The club has been offered free horses, but it doesn’t have the funds to maintain them, and the closest barns are a minimum of 50 miles from UNF. Despite the club’s monetary limitations, the club performed well at their first Dressage show at the University of Florida.

Kirkpatrick placed first in the introductory level the first day, and Shayla Panzyszyn placed first in the same level the second day.

The club focused heavily on being competitive this semester but also wants to provide a place where people who like horses or horse riding can just hang out, Kirkpatrick said. The Club’s members volunteer at various horse functions, such as the local horse rescue Gallop, in order to keep the horsing community strong.

“Competition is one aspect of the club, but it’s really about the animals,” Kirkpatrick said.

Drop by and say “neigh” Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. in Building 2 starting the second week of January for the club’s first meeting of the spring semester.