Spreading the love of horses and Redhawks

Written by Shannon LaGassa, CAS communications intern

The Miami University Equestrian Team (MUET) brings students together through their love of horses and the university.

"It's a unique opportunity that allows people to bond with others sharing that love that they would probably not otherwise have the chance to meet," said Courtney Johnson, a third-year psychology major.

Students in MUET ride and show horses, and anyone is allowed to try out for the team regardless of their skill level and experience.

MUET team members demonstrate the three equestrian divisions: Hunt Seat, Western, and Dressage.

Lori Cramer, the director of the program and advisor to the coaches said, "Our job is greater than riding—it's to provide an experience, a place where people are safe and comfortable. We provide a home away from home to the students."

MUET has three divisions: Hunt Seat, Western, and Dressage. Each is a unique discipline where students ride the horses in different riding tack and use different techniques. They have lessons twice a week and travel to compete at shows on the weekends.

There were approximately 102 members on the team this year, with over half having majors in the College of Arts and Science. Seven members make up an executive student body which organizes meetings and plans team bonding events.

"It's a very inclusive group of people that accepts you for who you are," said Heather Pinnick, the associate director and hunt seat coach. "Everyone has the same goal in mind, which is the love of horses."

MUET does more than just teach students about horses, however.

"My time with the team helped me deal with the stresses of college life in a number of ways," Liz Chasky, a former MUET member who graduated in 2013 with majors in journalism and zoology, explained. "It led me to meet numerous friends who I remain close to, and if it weren't for them, my Miami experience would not have been as magnificent as it was."

The show atmosphere

Students on the equestrian team show support for the university and each other at all events. Red and black appeal is proudly worn around campus and at the shows.

Despite the rigors of competition, students find ways to support each other. Whenever a fellow teammate wins a blue ribbon, every MUET member, student and coach alike, gives a collective cry of joy.

"There was never a time where I went a lap around the ring without at least one of my teammates standing there to give me advice or encouragement," said Julie Havrilla, a 2013 finance graduate.

"Your teammates line the fence, offering support and reminding you to smile," Chasky added. "Whether you win or lose, you know you are surrounded by friends who want the best for you."

An active presence on campus

MUET maintains a large campus presence at Miami by attending other sporting events and participating in community service, such as the university blood drive.

All of this interaction makes the team members very close.

"It's like a sorority," said Lindsey Carmack, the dressage team coach.

Tom Schoen, who graduated in 2013 with a degree in secondary English language arts and was on the hunt seat team, now works as an instructional intern.

"My favorite part about it was that I got to share my experience and also help others develop their Miami experience through the team," he said.

"The equestrian team has been the best thing about Miami for me," said Kathleen Dodson, a second-year zoology student. "It's helped me get through some of the hardest times in my life because I know that when I go down to the barn, I can forget about everything for a little while and just do what I love, ride horses."

For more information about MUET, visit the Miami University Equestrian Team web pages on the Miami University Recreation Center's website.