It’s not exactly the Kentucky Derby, but for those who love horses, it’s a blast. Mercer’s Equestrian Club (MEC) and Team provides an outlet for those interested in riding, regardless of experience, as well as a competitive outlet as the Mercer Equestrian Hunt Seat Team competes in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) in Zone 5, Region 3. According to the club’s website, the IHSA competitions have eight levels of equitation competition for riders ranging from fresh beginners to seasoned national champions.
MEC President Alesha Chapman heads the team, which has undergone an extensive leadership transition during the past two years. The club’s host stable, Bella Cavalla Farm near Lake Tobesofkee, also hosts the Stratford Academy Interscholastic Equestrian Hunt Seat Team.
The club started in 2006 and the competitive team came along in 2007 with an average of 3-7 active riders each year. Over the past four seasons they’ve competed year round with three to four shows per semester at different locations around the Southeast, including Charleston, SCAD, Wesleyan and Georgia Southern.
“We had a slow start in the beginning, but with some hard work and shameless promotion we eventually gained a pretty substantial amount of interest in the program,” said equestrian alumni Amy Abel-Kiker. “The club began as a group of students who wanted to create not only an environment for serious riders, but also for those who were maybe just interested in horses and wanted to learn more. It was a really great mission because there are so many people who haven’t had the opportunity to ride in the past but were afforded the opportunity through the Mercer program,” she added.
While the club and competitive team are separate, they enjoy a symbiotic relationship which helps promote the overall health of the program and the equestrians in general. Some riders are partial to English (all disciplines and styles) while others prefer “Western.”
Journalism major and equestrian team member Kathleen Quinlan remarked that the team only competes in hunt seat, currently with one rider involved in the jumping portion, but is looking to expand into the Western style of riding next season.
“I would like to think that through the Mercer Equestrian Program, a handful of Mercer students were able to find their place at Mercer doing what they love,” Abel-Kiker said.
For more information on the club and competitive team, visit www.mercer.edu/equestrian/ for contact information and an event schedule.