Journal on the Road

Late Nights, Early Mornings and Teamwork

April 15, 2010

One student shares her experiences during her third journey to the Varsity National Equestrian Championships this week in Waco, Texas.

Representing Texas A&M University at the Varsity Equestrian National Championships are, from left, Becca Murray of Burbank, California, Amanda Ryan of Ramona, California, and blogger Tara Christiansen. Becca is on Mr Nickey Step while Amanda rides McCaffrey. Both horses are American Quarter Horses finding second careers on the collegiate circuit.

By Tara Christiansen

As a member of the Texas A&M University Women’s Equestrian Team, I’ve embarked on my third journey to the Varsity Equestrian National Championships.

I’ve seen the national championships from several different views. During my freshman year, I was the reining team alternate, and I cheered the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Women’s Equestrian Team on to a reserve overall national championship.

My sophomore year, I entered nationals ranked the No. 1 individual reining rider on the No. 1 ranked western team. I helped my team bring home a western national championship and another reserve overall national championship.

Now, as a junior, I’m waiting to see what will unfold for us this year. We’ve entered nationals again with the No. 1 reining and horsemanship riders, along with the No. 1 western team. We also boast the No. 4 hunter seat team and the No. 5 equitation on the flat and the No. 8 equitation over fences riders.

Even though Varsity Equestrian operates in a slightly different format than AQHA shows, it shares the consistent theme of early mornings and late nights.

On Wednesday, I groggily awoke to my hated alarm clock at o’dark thirty, or 4 a.m., to be exact. I didn’t make much of an attempt to liven up. We had an hour and a half bus ride north to Waco, Texas, where the national championships are being held at the Heart of Texas Coliseum.

The sun was starting to rise when we pulled into the Heart of Texas. We immediately set to work: cleaning stalls, tacking up horses, filling water buckets and finally hoofing it to the arena to watch riders from the other competing universities school their horses.

Interspersed throughout the day, my teammates and I schooled our own lovely horses. I even got so caught up in watching horses that I nearly missed getting my horse ready to school in time. What really saved me was the help from my wonderful teammates, who were actually in the process of tacking up the horse by the time I hiked it back to the stalls.

Even though our 16 competing riders will play an extremely crucial role in our team’s success in the next few days, it really comes down to a lot of behind the scenes work to make a national championship team. Teamwork is what really comes into play. A team needs to operate as a well oiled machine, which is how I see the Aggie equestrian team.

As we look ahead to our first round of competition Thursday afternoon, it’s evident that our riders already have their game faces on and their heads in the arena. But it’s going to come down to a whole lot of cheering and a strong support system outside of the arena to really push us to another national championship…or maybe even seven.