Saddle up: Equestrian members leave their hoof-print on athletics program


Photo credit: Hannah Joe

Emma London ’21 and her horse jump over a fence during one of their shows this past season. The equestrian team participates in the Interscholastic Equestrain League, better known as the ECL.

As freshman Lucy Lassman gathered her saddle, blanket, bridle, helmet, safety stirrups and tendon boots, she was ready to hit the course and begin her equestrian show. But, just one thing was missing: her pony, Wall-E.

Once he was properly prepared and attended to, Lassman was finally ready to perform.

Routines like this are common and well-known to equestrians Maisie Shapiro, Amber Calvert-Jones and Lassman, who are all a part of Archer’s upper school equestrian team. Before the coronavirus took over the news, the Oracle sat down with these equestrian team members to discuss what their experiences have been like thus far.

Senior Maisie Shapiro

Riding has become a part of senior Maisie Shapiro’s second nature, not only as an athlete but as a person. Reflecting back on her 12 years of riding, one thing that hasn’t changed is her “passion” and “excitement” for the sport as a whole. Shapiro said riding has been her “favorite” extracurricular activity since she was 5 years old.

Participating in any sports program may require some sort of connection to the game, but for equestrian members, the connection or bond with the horses is absolutely essential to success, she said.

“A really big part of riding horses is just the bond between the horse and the rider,” Shapiro said. “I think a lot of people don’t really realize how much goes into it.”

For Shapiro, the bond she established with her own horse, Candy, didn’t come into effect immediately. The two encountered many challenges along the way, such as adjusting to new courses during the shows and becoming more comfortable and compatible with one another.

“When I first got her she was kind of suspicious about me,” Shapiro said. “She didn’t really understand what I wanted from her, so she wouldn’t really put in a ton of effort into the things I would ask her to do.”

But with time, Shapiro and her horse Candy became more comfortable with one another and were able to create the “special bond” that Shapiro views as the secret formula for success within this sport.

“She really is willing to do anything for me, and I think that it’s just a special bond that I have with her,” Shapiro said. “She is my best friend.”

Freshman Lucy Lassman

Freshman Lucy Lassman describes equestrian as an “amazing” sport due to the “invigorating” feeling that she experiences every time she rides.

“You can’t really have a relationship with a soccer ball or something,” Lassman said. “[Equestrian is] just a great sport where you can connect with your horse and also your friends.”

According to Lassman, equestrian is a very complicated sport. There are many different events and disciplines that go into the sport as a whole.

“Specifically, at Archer, the show we go to is called Interscholastic Equestrian League (IEL),” Lassman said, “which is focused around hunters and jumpers, which is basically the sport where you are making your horse and yourself look pretty; you just really want to show your connection with the horse and establish that bond.” 

Lassman has been riding for about five years, but only two or three competitively. She describes her first year riding for Archer as “awesome.”

“I love it. I mean, it’s really awesome to be able to focus on my own equestrian responsibilities, but then also at the show connect with all of my peers,” Lassman said.

She rides three to four times every week, and on Saturdays and Sundays she works at her barn. Lassman is at the barn nearly every weekend from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Since my barn is really nice, they like to lower the showing fees as much as possible, making it very easy on my parents and stuff like that, so when I work I get a discount on my lessons and my leasing,” Lassman said.

Lassman finds equestrian “great” because it offers classes for anyone who’s a beginner to someone who is really advanced.

“I know in sixth grade it was hard for me because I didn’t have access to my own horse, but if you do but you’re still a little bit worried about it or having a bunch of anxiety, pursue it, it’s really great,” Lassman said. “Getting over those pre-show nerves is honestly scary, but once you finish it, you’re going to feel so relieved.”

Junior Amber Calvert-Jones

Amber Calvert-Jones, a junior, said she finds it hard to manage school and riding because she has to drive an hour every day to go ride her horse.

“It’s definitely hard to do homework and stuff,” Calvert-Jones said, “but Archer really helps out with that because I get a lot of free periods to do my schoolwork here.”

Calvert-Jones has been riding for 12 years. She has a horse named Mr. Fox but calls him “Rex.

“He is chestnut, which is kind of like an orange color — he is really sweet, and I love him. He is the best,” she said. 

Calvert-Jones thinks that the equestrian season has been covered more by student publications than in years past.

“I think definitely when I was in middle school and then the team was a little smaller, it was definitely more looked past,” she said. “I think now we are getting a lot covered, especially with Coach Smith being the new head of athletics, and I think she is definitely helping us out with that.”  

She said having a “good bond” with your horse is important for success, especially “since [equestrian] is not usually a team sport.

“Having your Archer teammates with you and seeing everyone at horse shows is definitely really fun,” Calvert-Jones said.