The Brandeis equestrian club team is a group of students who love horses and competing. They compete in Region Four, Zone One, of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association along with 11 other Boston-area colleges. IHSA riders compete in Hunter Seat Equitation on the flat and Hunter Seat Equitation over fences. The ISHA organization now encompasses 40 Regions in eight Zones with over 400 member colleges in 45 states and Canada, representing 10,000 members. 

The Judges’ team is made up of 13 riders across every class year, varying academic majors and different riding backgrounds. Riders of all experience levels are welcome to join, from people who have never touched a horse all the way to people who have competed in horseback riding their whole lives, so there is no requirement or expectation of skills when a member joins the team. This year’s team captain is Stephanie Prill ’20, the Captain-in-Training is Sophie Rathmann ’21 and the coach/trainer is Katie Bobola. The team really likes Bobola as their coach, who, according to Prill in an interview with the Justice, “is able to train the beginner as well as very experienced riders.”.

The team practices at Woodridge Farms in Sherborn, MA, which is about a 45 minute van ride from campus.  The team has multiple lesson times scheduled each week, but each member is only scheduled for one practice slot weekly. The lessons are group lessons with  maximum of five riders, so they arrange schedules based on the team members’ and trainer’s schedules. However, members are able to take multiple lessons before a show, if a members’ and trainers’ schedules allow. 

This year’s competition schedule consists of seven shows spread out between October and November. Members are only required to compete in half of the competitions, but that is still three to four weekend days, during which riders are off campus from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. At the shows, competitors are placed in a division based upon their ability, which is determined at the beginning of the semester for new members. Competitors are randomly assigned a horse out of a hat and then have to figure out how to ride that horse to the best of their ability as soon as they get into the competition ring. There is no warm-up time on the assigned horse; riders just adjust the saddle, get on the horse and begin competing in the flat or jump, depending on the division. The team’s first show of the season will be hosted by Brandeis and Tufts University on Saturday, Oct. 12, at Saddle Rowe Farms in Medway, MA. 

Team bonding can be hard at times, since horseback riding tends to develop more of a team spirit with your horse of the day rather than with the people around you. However,  Prill explained, “we’re lucky to have very friendly people who want to get to know each other during our lessons. So back and forth in the vans, while tacking up and while cleaning everything down, people get to know each other.” 

Also, when the team goes to shows, they are at outdoor arenas or indoor facilities where there is no heating and it can be very cold during the many hours they are there, so team members are known to huddle up to keep each other warm while cheering on their competing teammates. Lastly, after shows, there are team dinners along with an end of the semester dinner. As a result, the Brandeis Equestrian Club has created an environment where the sport is less of an individual activity and more of a team sport.

Last year, the Judges placed eighth overall in the region and Prill won two Reserve High Point Rider of the Day awards at different competitions. In addition, Prill, Rathmann and Danielle Schwartz ’20 all qualified for regionals, but only Prill and Rathmann attended, with neither qualifying to move on to the Zone show.