AU Matters: Equestrian Club

There is no such thing as perfection in sport, but the Cardiff University Equestrian Club comes pretty close.

Both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams have had fantastic BUCS campaigns, topping their group with some excellent individual performances.

Equestrian is a team sport, but there’s an individual element to it as well. To highlight the ‘A’ team’s dominance of the league, their mixed four-player team is first, second, third and fourth in the individual rankings.

Equestrian is a not a sport many people understand. But, after speaking to Jemma Harrison, a 21-year-old Exploration and Resource Geology student, and President Stevie Jenkins, a 21-year-old City and Regional Planning student, it  became much clearer.

Although some may assume that equestrian is about building up a relationship with a horse over a long period of time, it can be almost the opposite. In every away BUCS competition, the riders compete on a completely new horse. Then, after five minutes of horse meeting rider, there’s the dressage event in the morning and showjumping in the afternoon.

“Normally it’s an even playing field, but the home team have a huge advantage because you tend to know the horses,” said Harrison.

In BUCS showjumping, time is not the most important element.

Harrison explained: “It’s more about the rhythm. If you can keep a constant rhythm, look nice, be very precise, ride in perfect circles, then you will score highly.

“BUCS is just one judge, but the regionals have two or three, and the nationals have five or six! There’s 24 ‘movements’, all scored out of 10.”

Both students had horse-riding experience before University, but it’s a club for riders of all abilities.

Jenkins commented: “We run lessons every week in Cowbridge, where a lot of beginners take part. We’ve got around 140 paid-up members and we’re a very social club, running a lot of socials and trips.

“For example, last week, we went to the Cheltenham Races, but we didn’t win any money!”

Talking about the success of the club, Harrison enthused: “We’ve won the Welsh league for the last five years – both teams.

“We’ve had some outstanding individual contributions that have led to our BUCS success, and now we’re targeting regionals and nationals.”

With BUCS all but secured, attention turns to the regionals in Warwick and, all going well, the nationals at Hartpury. With Leeds and Newcastle Universities both bringing strong equestrian teams, competition will be intense. There will be hope for a rosette, with a yellow rosette, or third place, the best that the club has achieved in the past.

Equestrian has a reputation of being an expensive sport, with an Olympic champion horse costing up to £10 million. This may put prospective riders off, but, in the Athletic Union, equestrian is accessible for all.

“The Union funds each competition,” said Jenkins, “and everything is heavily subsidised, from the lessons to the horses, competitions and equipment. Anyone and everyone can do it.”

Another important event in the Equestrian Club’s calendar is their Awards Board.

Harrison said: “It’s a black-tie event at Crystal and I can’t wait. We will present the Varsity Cup – hopefully to Cardiff – and will give out a total of 15 awards, from the top BUCS performer to the best beginner.”

Also high on the equine agenda is the Welsh Varsity match. This Wednesday will see the first ever Varsity meet between Cardiff and Swansea and, if this pilot competition succeeds, there will be an equestrian event included in the Welsh Varsity Cup next year.

“We’re expecting Swansea to bring quite a big crowd,” Jenkins said.

“Also, they have a larger training club than us, so it’s going to be a good contest. It’s been talked about before, but now we’re just delighted to have it arranged and happening.”

Not content with only planning Varsity, the club is also planning to add another BUCS team for the next academic year.

Jenkins explained: “Adding another team is a big aim because it would allow the club to expand, and it would help new members stay active throughout the year.”

Rhys Clayton

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