Winter is a challenging time for people who ride horses; it’s a season of frozen fingers and frosty breath, but the riders of Washington College’s Equestrian Team are keeping the heat on as they ready for a spring season that could propel them to their best finish ever. In the last Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) meet of the fall season, the team nailed second place in the region, led by team president Jared DePermentier ’14, who swept the flat and jumping classes.
“We’re right behind Drexel, and we’re definitely creeping up,” says DePermentier, a business and economics major who’s in a tight duel with a UPenn rider for individual best-in-region honors. “Last year we were eighth. So we’ve made a huge jump.”
“It’s been an amazing season,” says coach Chris Bigelow. “We’ve had some strong incoming riders who have filled the gaps and have good skills in the lower levels, as well as riders like Jared in the upper levels.”
The College’s equestrian team is actually split, with Western riders (think barrel racing and calf roping) and English hunt seat (think show jumping and fox hunting) competing in entirely different venues. The hunt seat team is the larger—about 30 riders—and more established, and its depth this year has allowed it to excel in all classes, or sections. Also, everyone has worked really hard, DePermentier says.
“A lot of people don’t even know we have a riding team,” he says. “They see our jackets and see “equestrian” and say, ‘What is that? Is that French?’’’ The team trains Friday afternoons in Easton and travels nearly every weekend to competitions throughout the Delmarva and southern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. “It’s a difficult sport as far as the time commitment,” DePermentier says. “To stay motivated is one thing, and to excel at it is another.”
Under the IHSA, students don’t even need a saddle to compete; all they need is desire, time, and dedication. Schools who join IHSA provide horses and tack for their own students and to visiting teams when they sponsor a show. It’s a great system, DePermentier says, because it levels the playing field and provides a chance for people who don’t have a lot of money to participate in what is a notoriously expensive and elitist sport.
“It’s fair for everyone,” he says. “Miss Chris does a really good job of putting us on different horses we wouldn’t work well with and really forcing us to give it our best, even when we’re about to hop off and walk away from it all. She just pushes us to work even harder.”
In March the team will have three shows to determine the regional winner. That team goes on to zone competition in spring; the winner there heads to nationals in May.