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UNC Asheville’s equestrian club rides into the new year with revamped program

Photo by: Ezekiel Ballard
Gillian Cobb, president of the Equestrian Club at UNC Asheville stands next to Chase the horse at Over the River Farm.

Alena Talbot
Sports Writer 
[email protected]
The UNC Asheville equestrian club underwent major changes over the last year, and are now recruiting members with all types of experience to join them. The club has redone their social media platforms, undergone a new wave of leadership, and received a new coach within the last year. 
“This is a new journey for the club. It’s kinda the new era,” said Julia Collins, the team’s coach.
The equestrian program is divided into two halves: the club which is open to anyone on campus to volunteer with horses in the WNC region, and the team, which participates in equation based, competitive riding.
Riders on the equestrian team follow the Intercollegiate Horse Show Asscoiation’s guidelines. 
“IHSA is an equitation based program. All the riders are based on their ride, not the horse. They have two options. They can be judged what we call on the flat meaning they don’t jump, and we have classes over fences as well,” Collins said.
Collins is new to UNCA’s team since Fall 2019, but has coached Western Carolina University’s IHSA team for the past three years.
“UNCA and WCU are called sister schools which I think is what IHSA is all about,” Collins said. “Each team is cheering both riders on at a show.”
The team practices every week at Over the River Farm in Candler, about 25 minutes from the UNCA campus. Collins has 45 years of experience with horses, and has been at Over the River Farm for 25 years.
“This has been the most fun year because we have WCU as a sister school. They’ve taken us under their wing, they’ve been so welcoming when we came out to the barn and now we’re all friends. It’s so nice to go out to a show and have extra friends. We’ve forged a little community and I’m so grateful,” said Gillian Cobb, the club’s president and the team captain.
UNCA and WCU share the same coach and the same stable.
“It’s fantastic because we have extra help with WCU. It’s so advantageous,” Collins said.
UNCA’s club participates in local fundraising events, according to Emeli Hernadaz, the acting treasurer.
“As treasurer I’m in charge of organizing the hotels, our entire account, getting the money to do things, making sure we have the funds, communicating with our Campus Recreation representatives, and organizing fundraising opportunities,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez has been a member for a year, and has 11 years of riding experience.
“I just joined the club this year. I looked at it my freshmen year and was not interested. This year it’s become more organized and everyone stepped up. I was also already working with the trainer and she asked me if I was interested ,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez plans to run for club presidency and team captain next semester.
 Cobb said the club has focused a lot of effort on updating their social media platforms to reach a wider audience this year.
“We’re coming back strong this semester. We’ve revamped our social media, our Facebook, our Instagram. We’ve made a website,” the senior rider said. 
“We do a lot of other things with the club. It’s not just riding. We do the fundraising and we do a lot of volunteer work and that’s something that we’re trying to up this semester,” Cobb said.
Last semester, the club held a bake sale to raise funds with local farming equipment supplier Southern States, according to the club president.
“We did a lot of work at the Roots garden on campus and this year we’re trying to do a lot of work for Hope for Horses. They’re a non-profit horse sanctuary. We got to go over there and groom and take care of the barn and stuff. This semester we’re hoping to do that again in April,” Cobb said.
The club also participates with the Junior Bulldog outreach program on campus.
“We do two 30 minute classes for them on matching anatomy. It’s a lot of fun actually,” Cobb said.
The club has a $35 fee to join and that price accounts for most transportation and a t-shirt, according to Cobb. Team riders partake in private lessons with Collins costing $40 per lesson, paid monthly at Over the River Farm. Private lessons serve as practice because, according to Collins, each rider is at a different level and requires different instruction.
“ I only do private lessons with my riders at a collegiate level, but I also include extra options for them to do group rides to be able to get practice with traffic. We call those show prep rides,” Collins said.
At the beginning of the semester, the equestrian team starts the season with a retreat to encourage members to get to know one another better, according to Collins.
“We call it team building and team bonding. This year it was at Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia. We had our first show of the season about an hour away from there, so after the show we go up there and swim and play and hang out,” Collins said.
The equestrian club offers a handful of officer positions that are elected every year. These positions include president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary.
“In my experience doing this, the people who are in leadership roles have all gone on to graduate school or been in very tough majors. They’re very smart and self starters.” Collins said. “It goes on your job resume. It’s supposed to build leadership skills. I’m hoping that we can build more officer positions as we get more people.”
The club holds monthly meetings about upcoming events and potlucks before a show, according to the club’s vice president of club activities.
“We’re at the stage where we’d rather have a small team that’s super positive and super hard working and looking to the future and making something great,” Collins said.

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