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TCU 360

All TCU. All the time.

TCU 360

The Skiff Orientation Edition: Welcome, Class of 28!
The Skiff Orientation Edition: Welcome, Class of '28!
By Georgie London, Staff Writer
Published May 13, 2024
Advice from your fellow Frogs, explore Fort Worth, pizza reviews and more. 

How TCU equestrian riders practice

How+TCU+equestrian+riders+practice

Many teams rely on other athletes for success. In football, basketball, soccer, water polo and baseball, you need teammates or partners competing to their best ability, both mentally and physically, for any hope of winning.

But at least those teammates are human. Having a horse for a partner is a bit different. As senior TCU equestrian rider Kaitlin Perry said, “You can’t tell the horses, ‘The Big 12 Competition is at the end of March and you have to be ready!’”

Perry said no matter how much you practice, you never know what you are going to get on competition day.

“You have to account for their personalities as well as yours,” Perry said. 

Riders are responsible for 50 percent of the equation, leaving half of the sport beyond the player’s control.

Sophomore English rider Jordan Appel has had a strong season. Appel has earned multiple honors in Grand Prixs. She recently won the Thanksgiving Prix in Waco, while claiming runner-up accolades in the $25,000 Winter Series II Grand Prix.

“If the horse is having a bad day, you respond. You adapt. You go off your own feel and instinct,”Appel said. “The horse knows when it’s show day — they may be hipper. You just have to ride the horse you get on that day. You can’t expect it to be like every other day.”

Horses can also favor certain players. Perry recalls a time that a horse, May, refused to listen to her. Perry said that no one can get May to be as good as Appel can.

“I tend to like the horses that no one else likes,” Appel said. “I think I just figured her out. I love knowing all of her little quirks. I almost always know what I’m going to get with May. I like the stability in that. And she’s so cute. She’s so cute.”

Every player prepares for a competition differently.

Perry, who is this season’s team captain, said she prepares for her English riding events by taking the time to visualize her pattern or course and imagining herself riding it perfectly.

“From there I just try to breathe and remember to ride every step and not let myself get caught up in the scores,” Perry said.

Senior western rider Alexi Child prepares for competitions by watching her favorite sports movie the night before to relax. The day of the competition she always listens to the same playlist on her phone.

“Once horses start to come out for warm-ups, our team gets together and watches how the horses are handling that day and talk through certain aspects of the pattern,” Child said. “Being focused, but not overthinking the ride, is sometimes the hardest part of preparation.”

Every equestrian team is divided between English and western riders. The differences between the two are significant, and most people cannot convert from one to the other.

“Like cross country and sprinters,” Appel said. “You can’t switch back and forth between the two.”

Before each competition, the hosting school will send the course to the other teams about a week in advance. The home team gets to design the course.

“Being the home team is a huge advantage, but you have to be careful to not practice too much,” Perry said. “If the horses start to get too familiar to the course, they will start to anticipate what will happen.”

Every team member is matched at random with a member of the opposing team. The two players are only competing against each other, the winner of the two gets the point.

TCU’s equestrian team has 17 English riders and 16 western riders.

English riding first started in Britain and then appeared in America. The English riding style is considered the more formal or traditional form of horseback riding. The English saddle has metal stirrups and is much smaller, lighter and flatter compared to the western saddle, as it was designed for unrestricted horse movement.

There are two events for English riding: jumping over fences and flat. Flat is a course that is chosen from a 26-course pattern bank. In a competition, there are approximately eight to 10 total jumps. In flat, the judging is based solely off of the rider, not the horse. Jumping is based off of the rider and the horse.

Western riding started in rural America in the Western states. The tack used for the different techniques is very different from English. The Western saddle is much larger, heavier and has a horn in front. It is also a more comfortable style for riders because they are able to ride for longer periods of time. In competitions, riders are judged in two major categories: reining and horsemanship.

“In western riding, there is ideally minimal contact on the reins,” Child said. “And the horse is willingly guided throughout the maneuvers, as where with English, there is generally more hand and leg contact with the horse for every stride.”

Child said equestrian is a unique sport that combines the partnership of a horse and rider into a collective team effort. Riders have approximately four minutes to become acquainted with their horse before jumping on their back to compete.

“Having to incorporate the team’s mentality and responsibilities and still focus on your own ride or rides for the day is part of what makes this sport so difficult,” Child said. “Not to mention forming a connection with a 1,200 pound animal in four minutes before competing – that’s a major obstacle too.”

Junior western rider Chantz Stewart describes some of her difficulties with the sport.

“No matter how much you practice, you are never going to know everything,” Stewart said. “You work hard and are rewarded for it. But you also learn how to deal with failure and loss. That’s a life lesson I will use the rest of my life.”

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