During their first Intercollegiate Horse Show Association competition in Sewanee, Tenn., the Belmont Equestrian Club faced well-established university teams from Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas and returned to campus with seven ribbons, including one first place.
Sophomore Sarah Allison Harpole earned first place in Beginner Walk Trot Canter, and every team member competing placed in each of her classes.
“It’s been an incredible experience. The girls are fantastic. We really are a team and that showed well at the competition this past weekend. We all pitched in and helped each other,” said Harpole, who is from Paducah, Ky.
Together with six other Belmont students, Harpole practices for three hours each Saturday 30 minutes south of campus at Hunters Court Stables under the direction of Assistant Trainer Amy Rippel.
“She teaches us in group lessons the basics of hunt seat riding. We all come from different backgrounds of riding, so this is all new to us. We are just learning,” said Harpole, who previously rode saddle back on high horses for 16 years. “Everything from body format is very different. The horses are different. Each discipline is different in the way it operates.”
When Rippel is unable to instruct, Belmont adult degree student and club president Julie Anderson steps in as coach.
“I decided to put this [student organization] together because riding has always been my passion. I really wanted to attend a school with an equestrian organization or facility,” said Anderson, who started the club in 2012 with five members. It since has grown to more than 40 people, seven of whom compete. The other students plan social events for the team and participate in community service. They recently volunteered at Saddle Up, a therapeutic riding center for children with disabilities.
Eventually, they hope to become a NCAA-recognized team through Belmont University, she said.
“This is a good way to get recognized in the professional equestrian world,” Anderson said. “It’s really competitive and hard to place, especially with it being your first time.”
Other ribbon winners included:
Morgan Wilters, fifth place Advanced Walk Trot Canter
Caitlyn Marsh, sixth place Advanced Walk Trot Cancer
Courtney O’Connor, fifth place Novice Over Fences
Julie Anderson, sixth place Novice Over Fences
Sarah Spence, fifth place Novice Over Fences
Amanda Lee, sixth place Intermediate Flat Equitation