While some students were busy studying or taking it easy during reading week, several members of the Ryerson University Equestrian Club (RUEC) were learning the basics of catch riding at their second show of the season.
The catch riding competition was one of several Ontario University Equestrian Association (OUEA) shows and was held at DreamCatcher Farm in Kingston, Ont.
RUEC’s show team consisted of eight female riders, including captain Lucy Gilbert.
Gilbert, who has had some experience in this type of competition, knows that it can be a challenge for any rider.
“We don’t get a warm-up and we do not know the horse we are riding at all. It is 100 per cent catch riding basis. It’s very hard to pick up on this as you have no connection with the horse and know nothing about how they like being ridden,” says Gilbert.
When the riders arrived at DreamCatcher Farm this past weekend, they were each assigned a number that corresponded to a specific horse.
Each rider was also given some basic information about their horse such as name, age, height, breed and small tips on riding it.
Before the show began the team was allowed to watch a separate riding team prep their horses and take notes on how they rode them.
“It feels kind of fun but, also it’s like a challenge,” says Nicole Meffe, a RUEC member and a first-year student studying biology.
At her first show, Meffe placed seventh in her division and then cheered on her teammates from the sidelines, dressed in her full winter wear and trying her best to keep warm, like many other riders that day.
While there were some frozen faces beneath the riding hats, fourth-year business student Laura Giffen didn’t let the weather get to her. “This is one of the warmer days. It’s pretty cold when we are showing in February,” says Giffen, who is also the current OUEA president.
Riding competitively for the past 16 years, Giffen was also Ryerson’s team captain in her second and third year at the school.
As the OUEA president, she is in charge of making sure all 17 universities that compete within the OUEA are running well and that all the shows are properly organized.
The universities are split into east and west zones, with six shows each during the 2014-15 season and a final show that is held in March.
Giffen explained that shows are hosted at farms that can provide enough horses for the riders in each university club participating.
“It’s a lot of work to host a show and get all these horses. You need 30 to 35 horses to run an efficient show without them getting too exhausted.”
Riders who don’t have a horse pay $50 for the day and get two rides on a horse provided by the hosting farm.
“A lot of people don’t have horses, and they can’t afford to lease a horse; they can’t afford to horse show”, says Giffen.
No doubt horse riding is an expensive sport but the OUEA shows provide riders with an opportunity to practise riding and learn some new skills, such as catch riding.
You learn a lot about different temperaments of horses and you grow a lot in your own style… being more versatile, says Giffen.
RUEC members practise their riding skills at Pause Awhile Equestrian Centre in Stouffville, Ont.
Members pay a $65 membership fee, which includes a gym membership, discounted lessons and all events they host or participate in. Gilbert says that riders who are looking to compete must pay an additional $50 to participate in OUEA shows.
The next OUEA show will be hosted by University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Lakehead University and will take place at Northequest Equestrian Farm in Uxbridge on Oct. 26.