When Jordan Jones ’13 earned a third-place ribbon at the Bridgewater College Intercollegiate Horse Show, she ended a decade-long drought in competitive riding at Mary Baldwin University.
The Virginia Beach native, along with freshman teammate Bryn Huxoll, have been working within guidelines established by the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) to help resurrect competitive riding at Mary Baldwin for the first time in at least 10 years.
Huxoll has been riding for 19 years — jumping fences for the Mary Baldwin team and competing in upper-level dressage back home in Spotsylvania County.
“My mom is a world-champion rider and trainer,” Huxoll said. “Of course, I got pulled into the [riding] world at home. I rode side-saddle for the first seven years, then I started riding dressage, and now I’m riding hunter.” (Based on the tradition of fox hunting, “hunt seat” refers to a style of forward-seat riding. Along with dressage, it is one of the two classic forms of English riding.)
Jones — who is triple majoring in Health Care Administration, sociology/psychology, and business — started riding in 5th grade. She began thinking of ways to rebuild Mary Baldwin’s equestrian club her freshman year and hopes to expand the team during her senior year, beginning with the upcoming 2012 fall season.
“It happened so fast. It’s exciting,” Jones said of competing at the collegiate level.
If nurtured in a diverse environment such as Mary Baldwin, Huxoll and Jones’ efforts could lead to a unique opportunity in the riding world.
“All little girls love horses. All little girls love the idea of riding. But most little girls don’t have the chance to do it,” said Lydia Petersson, riding club sponsor (pictured, above, with Jones) and director of sponsored programs and undergraduate research at Mary Baldwin. “One of our great advantages is that we have a potential for a very, very diverse team. And that’s not common in horse sports.”
The IHSA supports more than 8,300 students at more than 370 colleges and universities nationwide and in Canada. According to its website, the organization was “founded on the principle that any college student should be able to participate in horse shows regardless of his or her riding ability or financial status.”
With a student body so rich in cultural and socioeconomic diversity, Mary Baldwin has a chance to introduce riding to young women largely underrepresented in the sport. A robust program would also give horse-focused alumnae/i a chance to give back to Mary Baldwin by contributing used equipment, funds for the riding lessons, and even moral support to the team.
“Riding is not a cheap sport by any stretch of the imagination,” Huxoll said. “For field hockey, you just buy a mouth guard, shin guards, socks, and cleats. For riding, there’s a specific jacket, shirt, collar, gloves, collar pin, pants, boots, and helmet. And that’s just show attire.”
In addition to meeting on campus for yoga and other workouts, Jones and Huxoll ride at least two days a week at Grey Gables Farm in Swoope, which is how they connected with Petersson, who also rides there.
“The time alone is a career in itself. Here, at school, I only spend about six hours a week at the barn, but at home over the summer I spend about 17 hours a week at the barn,” Huxoll said. As for why she enjoys riding, she added, “Horses don’t talk back. Plus it’s a rush flying through the air over a jump.”
“I enjoy all of it – even just practicing,” Jones said. “It’s my ‘me’ time.”
After fulfilling a requirement to observe intercollegiate horse shows, the women were allowed to compete at the University of Virginia and Bridgewater College, where Jones captured her third-place ribbon in Walk-Trot-Canter.
To compete, a student does not have to own her horse. Host schools supply the horses for student riders, who are given just a few minutes to acquaint themselves with the animals before a show begins. That sort of accessibility represents the IHSA philosophy.
“I think that’s one of the real key reasons why I got involved in this, once I realized [the IHSA] mission,” Petersson said. “It’s a team sport, but you can compete with just a few lessons, really.”
For more information and photos, visit the Mary Baldwin University Riding Club Facebook page .
At a Glance
In the equestrian world, there is practice gear and then there is show apparel. Costs can quickly add up when factoring in the average price of items necessary for competition.
Shirt (including collar): $50–$80
Collar pin: $10–$40