New Eventing Team Overcomes Equestrian Opportunity Hurdles

Eventing Team Member, Jenn Price, competing at an event at Waredaca.

Image Credit: Taylor Bagen

October 25, 2015 Rachael Keeney

Although the state of Maryland is widely known for its success and involvement in the equine sport of eventing -- an Olympic “triathlon” for horse riders of sorts – the University of Maryland has never fielded an eventing team.

Eventing, also known as horse trials, requires riders and horses to master three different disciplines of skills designed to test a horse’s agility and balance as well as its stamina and power and the rider’s ability to control and work with the horse. Despite the substantial monetary and time-consuming investment that Maryland youths and their families pour into this sport, many competitors decide to either go to college out of state where they can continue to compete, while others decline to attend college all together in order to focus on eventing.

During finals week last spring, animal science majors Taylor Bagen and Erika Tonnon approached Amy Burk, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences' Equine Studies Program, and said that they were tired of horsing around having no such team. With Burk’s support, the first ever UMD eventing team was created.

“This is a great way to capture all of the students at the University of Maryland that may or may not have a horse and who are already eventing find a place that they can call home and a group that they can associate with,” said Burk, PhD.

The university has an equestrian club that leases horses from the animal science department as well as an Intercollegiate Horse Show Association team but Burk says eventing was a missing piece that will add significantly to the equine program.

 “It is important for the industry to know what we are doing,” said Burk. “They tend to think we put the students in classrooms and we teach them off of PowerPoints all the time and they don’t get real life experiences. But not only do we offer real life experience in class, we also offer these really great extra curricular activities.”

The Eventing Team will compete in both individual and team competitions, regionally and nationally, under the United States Eventing Association as the officially recognized University of Maryland team. 

“It’s really cool that we can accommodate literally everyone,” Tonnon said. “You can be on this team and train by yourself or you can be on this team and train with other members that are going to the same barn every week.” 

Presently, five of the 22 team members take part in lessons every Wednesday afternoon at Waredaca, an eventing focused farm facility where students can lease horses and participate in USEA competitions.

“Even if we are all doing individual things with our horses, it’s nice to know that you have other people that are doing the same thing as you, especially because it is so hard to go to tons of events when you’re a college student,” Bagen added.

“I am also not from an eventing background, so this semester has been a lot of figuring a lot of things out,” Bagen continued. “It’s a really different discipline and it has been so much fun learning about it. I want to be prepared going into my first event so that I don’t embarrass myself!"

While individuals can register for the UMD team this November, the Eventing Team has set its sights on making it to the fall 2016 intercollegiate eventing competition held in Virginia, using the time leading up to this event to gain more members, get university recognition and funding via the Student Government Association, fundraise and refine their skills.

“Students will find a group of people who have a common interest, and if they’re anything like me, they’re very competitive and will benefit from having a competitive outlet,” Burk said. “It’s a great way for students to represent the university, and to be able to say that you represent the University of Maryland means something to a lot of these students.”

“To the college I think it means a couple things,” Burk concluded. “I think its another way to promote the outstanding programs of the college, and I think its going to hopefully increase our enrollment because we will be capturing students that event and want to stay within Maryland rather than go to school elsewhere.”

The Eventing Team’s next meeting will be held November 12th in room 0408 of the Animal Science building, where the official council will be elected. Interested students are encouraged to attend as well as visit the team’s Facebook page or email for more information.