The Club Column: Equestrian

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Photograph: Jess Lee

Each fortnight, SCAN brings you an exclusive inside peek at one of our fantastic sports clubs. Read about what they get up to, and get the latest on how they are representing Lancaster in competitive sport around the country.

This issue, SCAN interviewed captain Alex Herring to find out all about Lancaster University Equestrian Club.

LUEC has 40 members: 28 casual riders who partake in weekly lessons, and 12 competitive riders, who travel the country to do us proud at the University. There are four A team riders, four B team riders and two reserves for each.

Each team competes in a mini BUCS league with just three other Universities, who each take turns to host a competition. Equestrian competitions are a lot more challenging than you might think. Each rider must tackle both a dressage test, and a course of show jumps. But here’s the catch: unless they are the competition hosts, they will be competing aboard a horse they have never met before. Riders are given a small amount of background information about the animal, and just ten minutes to warm up and rapidly suss out how to ride it, before entering the ring and attempting to compete at a high standard. Arguably, this type of riding is in another league to competing on your own horse, whom you know inside out.

Herring recapped last year’s results. She remarked that ‘both teams improved a lot from the year before’. Impressively, the A and B teams both came second in their respective leagues, only just missing out on qualifying for the regional competition. Additionally, thanks to bagging some fantastic scores throughout the year, Herring earned herself a place in first the regional, and then the national BUCS competition as an individual rider, which took place over the summer. She finished 26th in the country, an astonishing achievement.

This year, their BUCS league rivals have changed slightly. Fortunately, they no longer have to face equine college Bishop Burton, who consistently dominated the A team league last year, due to the fact that their degrees were in horse riding. However, both teams now face Liverpool, whose A team came 2nd at nationals last year. Only time will tell what this year will bring.

Roses 2015 was the B team’s time to shine, as they not only smashed York, gaining two points towards the Roses totals, but also surpassed their own A team. Lancaster’s teams scored very similarly, which according to last year’s captain Emily Cowland, ‘shows how effectively we have progressed together. We embraced the competition as a team and helped each other right up until the last jump. I’m very excited to see them win Roses 2016.’

Newly appointed Herring is determined to see this dream carried out. LUEC’s team trials were held on the Wednesday week 1, and so hopefully armed with plenty of new recruits, Herring can keep up the good work. She comments, ‘last year we were consistently better in the show jumping phase of the competition, so this year I’ll be focusing on bringing our flatwork up to the same standard’.

Photograph: Jess Lee

The team trains with instructor Kayleigh, at Eccleston Equestrian Centre, about 40 miles south of the University. Herring tells SCAN, ‘we train every Wednesday for an hour and a half: 45 minutes on the flat and 45 minutes show jumping’.

In light of the new fees this year, Herring said, ‘I’m hoping that the team will take advantage of their included gym membership to improve fitness’. She believes fitness to be of particular importance, especially in a competition where each horse is ridden multiple times to keep things fair, and can often only take so much nagging: ‘being the fourth person to ride a horse can be hard and tiring work!’

When they’re not working hard, the Equestrian Club always makes time to wind down and relax. The first event of the year will be a white t-shirt social, for new members to get to know each other via their artistic abilities with marker pens. There are also regular movie nights, and even horse riding socials like beach rides. Herring reveals, ‘we’re hoping to attend some equestrian events such as Your Horse Live, where there are lots of demonstrations and shopping’. Many members are also keen to start Pilates together, to improve core balance and strength in the saddle.

Herring concludes ‘it’s a fantastic sport, and I love being part of such a great team with people who all share the same passion that I have’. She describes the club as ‘one big family’, brought together by their common love of all things equine.

If you would like to see your club featured here, email scan.sports@lusu.co.uk, or contact either Esther Jewitt or Chris Bickley on Facebook.