Club Column: Equestrian

SCAN speaks to the Equestrian Society for this weeks Club Column.

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Image courtesy of Lancaster University Equestrian

Each fortnight, SCAN brings you an 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.

The sport of equestrian is, at its core, horse riding. The name ‘equestrian’ derives from the Latin ‘equester’ and ‘equus’ meaning ‘horse’; it could well have been called horse riding but that just wouldn’t sound right for an activity with such a rich and prestigious history. Since around 3500 BC, Horses have been domesticated and used for transport, while events such as dressage were popularised in the 15th century alongside the Renaissance.

A sport often with royal connotations, Kings and Queens have famously enjoyed equine activities, whether that be taking part or observing (there were around a thousand horses performing at the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations), but the most recent example of this would be Zara Phillips, daughter of Princess Anne, winning Sports Personality of the year in 2006 and an Olympic Silver medal in 2012 for her amazing work in the Eventing category.

In this week’s edition of Club Column, SCAN will analyse what has made Equestrian so popular throughout hundreds of years, while also talking to Equestrian Club President Sophie Finlinson about the club as a whole as well as social secretary Ellie Borgman about the communal side of the society. We began by asking Sophie what makes Equestrian such a great society: ‘Along with the club providing the opportunity to ride horses whilst at university, there are also other great events to get involved with through the club. We have teams which compete in show-jumping and dressage at BUCs and Roses and we host special events throughout the year, such as our yearly trip to Badminton Horse Trials, as well as running socials every week’

Equestrian in the UK has always been extremely popular; statistics from Sport England in 2017 estimate that around 282’400 riders aged 16 and over take part each week, far higher than perceived more popular sports like Cricket, Rugby Union and Netball and its popularity, like most sports, always appears to peak around the time of the Olympics. Since the sport’s inception within the Olympic Games in 1900, Britain has achieved immense success, Zara Phillips having already been mentioned, achieving a Silver Medal in 2012 for the Team Eventing category.

Other British Olympic heroes include Nick Skelton, who won Olympic Gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the Individual Jumping event, was 58 years old when he and his horse Big Star triumphed, meaning he became the first Briton to win any medal in the Individual Jumping since 1972 as well as Britain’s oldest Olympic gold medallist in any sport for 108 years. Finally, there is Charlotte Dujardin. Described as ‘the dominant dressage rider of her era’, she has won three Olympic golds over the last two games and currently holds all titles and world records available in the sport of Dressage, Dujardin is a once in a lifetime performer.

The Equestrian Society at Lancaster is also hugely competitive. With three main squads (the firsts, seconds and development squad) as well as a group of performers who just choose to just ride and have smaller competitions within their own group. We asked Sophie about the success the team has had in the past year as well as her plans for the team’s progression this year: ‘Last season we had some very good results, particularly for the development team who won every single competition they went to and the whole team qualified for regionals. We’ve had a couple of training sessions this year already and we have a really strong squad this year, so hopefully we can continue to build on our success. At team training everyone’s putting in a lot of hard work so hopefully it will really pay off this year, with the competitions starting in a couple of weeks’.

With such fantastic goals there’s no surprise that the team members will have some amazing memories from their time taking part. When talking about this, we asked Sophie about her personal highlight from her time competing. ‘My personal highlight from my time with equestrian was qualifying for regionals with my team and coming individual 5th at regionals. We all got on really well as a team and because we had to drive to our competitions and they were quite far away, we did little road trips, stopping to take photos and see the sights along the way’.

But potential success isn’t the only reason to join the team. With dedicated social secretaries ensuring the whole club is a tight-knit unit and a wide-variety of socials available that don’t just encourage numerous varieties of drinking (they have a planned one that will take the squad to a local Escape rooms). When asked about what other great events lined up Social Secretary Ellie said ‘Throughout the year we put on socials every Wednesday where we like to include a theme. Coming up we have Pub Show jumping, Flat Punch and a joint social with the Sailing Club. In December we are hoping to do a trip to the Manchester Christmas markets for some sightseeing of the city and Christmas shopping but the event I am most looking forward to is our annual Christmas Beach Ride.  On this ride we get to decorate the horse in tinsel, gallop along the beaches in the Lake District and have minced pies and mulled wine afterwards’.

As a sport, Equestrian is clearly steeped in tremendous history and the level of talent in Britain is only getting better and better as proven by recent Olympic success’. The success extends to the Lancaster Equestrian society, a team truly on the rise. If this summary of the society’s operations hasn’t already showed just what a fantastic club Equestrian is to join, we asked Sophie as to why others should consider joining. ‘One of the best things about the club is making lifelong friends whilst doing something you love. Everyone gets on really well and one of my favourite parts of the club is getting to go to events such as Badminton Horse Trials, which without the club I would never have been to’