Tech Equestrian saddles up for competition

By Bee Goodman Managing Editor

Photo by Lilly Davis Photographer

It’s an early morning for the riders as they gather themselves and head for competitions. Sometimes it’s a short trip, but other times is a long drive before the Tennessee Tech Equestrian Team saddles up.

The horses are packed in the trailer with coach Becky Huddleston who has been with the team for a few years now. The team saddles under the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (ISHA). The team splits into two sections for competing: Western riding and English riding. Junior animal science major Aaliyah Simpson, a rider for the golden team, explains, “Western riding is more like cowboy stuff. It’s similar to things you’d see at a rodeo but not the barrel racing or bucking.”

The unique thing about equestrian competitions versus rodeo or the jockey racing you’d see at the Kentucky Derby is the riders don’t compete with their horse. Simpson recalls how nerve-wracking it can be to jump on a horse you’ve never seen before and go on to compete. “It’s luck of the draw…you have a couple of minutes with the horse before you go in, to get situated and see if you and this horse will be a good match.”

Riders are set up with different horses based on their skill. A beginning rider will never be placed outside of their comfort zone, and a more advanced rider is never going to be paired with a horse that doesn’t have all the skills they’ll need. This way every rider and horse is safe.

English shows are more posh. These shows are where you’d see horse and rider taking on obstacles like jumping walls and vertical fences. Similar to Western riding, English riders are also paired with an unknown horse partner. Simpson states how a rider must be mentally prepaid the moment they arrive at the competition, “You get there, you get dressed. You adjust the stirrups, and you go. You just go.”  This makes practice crucial to riders and horses. The team and their horses circulate who practices with who, but Simpson shares that she has a special bond with a particular horse, Treasure.

“Treasure is a sweet girl, she’s one of my favorites. I like them all but Treasure is, well she’s a treasure,” Simpson smiles.