Nevada’s Western Equestrian team led by coach Jeanne Levine returns for their second season with high hopes of improving on last year’s results, as well as expanding the team to new members in order to help them compete with larger programs.
This year’s team, led by team captain Taylor Mayfield, has eight members. Mayfield has been a member of the Western team for two years now.
“I love riding, it’s probably my number one stress reliever during school years,” Mayfield said. “It’s so relaxing and it’s so much fun being out here.”
The Western Equestrian team competes in the western style of equestrian eventing, the other style is English. The English-style competitions involve the horse jumping over steeples and the saddle has no horn. The Western-style saddle has a horn on the saddle and is common at events such as the Reno Rodeo.
The Western team is part of the larger Equestrian club, which houses teams that compete in both of the previously mentioned categories.
The club competes in two main disciplines, reigning and horsemanship. Coach Levine emphasized that the main difference between the two events is speed.
“Horsemanship tests the rider’s ability to make a horse do exactly what they want to do when they want to do it and ride pretty at the same time,” Levine said. “The reigning is a little faster event, but the same thing. They’ve gotta look pretty doing it, and they’ve gotta really have good control of the horse.”
Equestrian competitions throw competitors an interesting curveball because riders don’t know which horse they are going to compete with until just before they take the field. Typically, this means they’re working with a horse they’ve never ridden before.
Prior to the start of the competition, the riders pick a random horse out of a hat and are expected to hop on and go.
“The deal is… I go up, the owner is there holding it, or whoever is managing the horse, they take the stirrups up so they fit me,” Levine said. “I’ve never ridden the horse before and I go off and try and make it do exactly what I want it to do.”
There are eight different classes between the two disciplines, based on skill level. One member from each team rides in each of the different classes. Based on your ranking, points are assigned. Eight points for first place, seven points for second and so on. Simply put, the team with the most points wins.
Within their regional group, the Equestrian team competes against California based programs. Their group includes Cal Poly, University of California, Davis, Stanford and Reedley College. Nevada’s Equestrian club is the only one in the state. Traveling to California to compete is a necessity if the program wants to keep growing.
Currently, the club’s main focus is on the future. That means growing in membership and as a program, possibly having their own arena in Reno to host competitions and being able to compete with larger programs outside of their current wheelhouse.
“I would like to grow it so it is like a 14 man team, where we have to figure out who is going to show in what class because right now we only have one in each class,” said Levine.
Nevada’s Equestrian club will see their first action of the season on Oct. 26, 2019, at Reedley College.
Jory Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.