Best in show
When senior Shandi Siegl first joined the UW-Eau Claire Equestrian Show Team her freshman year, she was looking for a place to belong. Now, she sees the team as more than just an organization.
“It’s like we are sisters … it’s like having a second family,” Siegl said.
The Equestrian Show Team is a branch off of the original organization, the UWEC Equestrian Club, where they focus on riding, not showing.
The Show Team was developed because the organization was finding more and more girls wanted to do more with horses, Siegl said.
Any full-time university student can tryout and join, but senior and President of the Show Team Bryanna Hoeper says that she prefers students who have some experience with riding.
“We really do take anyone, we do prefer that you know how to ride horse because we are a competitive team,” Hoeper said. “So if you have never ridden a horse before it is quite hard to get into the showing aspect while you’re still learning to actually ride a horse.”
The organization consists of 15 members — all women — but men are encouraged to join as well. The Show Team focuses on both Western and English types of horseback riding and showing styles.
The team practices once a week at River Bluff farm in Elk Mound, Wis. where they ride a different horse each time in order to prepare for their shows, Hoeper said. They ride different horses each time because when they compete, they do not know the horse they are going to ride there either, Hoeper said.
For Hoeper, joining the Show Team was a way to take a break from school and to de-stress.
“I didn’t want to study more, I didn’t want to learn more about academics, I wanted my horses, I wanted an out with horses. I tried other (organizations) but it wasn’t as fulfilling as the equestrian team was,” Hoeper said.
Freshmen Terra Mitzel also chose the Show Team because she wanted something else to devote her time to other
“I really like the sport of it, I already have so much going on with academics,” Mitzel said. “I have classes everyday so this is kind of something to get away from that.”
Since she was young Mitzel knew she wanted horses to be in her life. She would ride and show her neighbors horses until she got a job in seventh grade and bought her very own.
Mitzel is not the only member that has grown up with horses. Hoeper’s love and respect for riding and horses stems from an early age as well.
“I have grown up with them, I have been riding horse forever. My mom, three days after she had me, put me in a front pack and went riding horses … it is just the love of my family,” Hoeper said.
All three girls said they find riding and showing horses empowering, and also have said they have immense admiration for horses.
“I respect them so much, they’re 1,200 pounds, they could easily get rid of me,” Mitzel said. “They don’t have to have me on their back, have me controlling them … it is a really cool thing be able to do that and to have such a large animal trust you.”
Siegl says that along with it being incredibly empowering, they are also unique and different from any other animal.
“They want a leader and if you can be that leader, the things that people can do with horses is just ridiculously awesome,” Siegl said. “I recently bought my first one and you never stop learning. You can never say you know everything there is to know about horses.”
According to Mitzel, the girls have to pay for the competitions and their show outfits out of their own pocket.
But if the girls do not have an article of clothing for the show or can not afford something, Mitzel said that the team takes care of each other and makes sure that people have what they need to compete.
“For some people, they did have to go buy their stuff because they didn’t already have it,” Mitzel said. “But a lot of the teammates share.”
Siegl said because the team does not pay any sort of dues, they hold fundraisers like pumpkin carving at Fanny Hill.
She also said they pay for their private lessons they recieve every week by doing nightly chores once a week at the barn they practice at.
Mitzel said that not only is working with horses an amazing part of her week, but her teammates are also a big reason why she enjoys the organization.
“They really care about how I do, and so I think that moment was my favorite, kind of realizing how much they care about your teammates because you don’t have that in competitions at home. People don’t care how well you do,” Mitzel said.
For all three girls, this organization has brought them closer to horses and made being able to continue their own riding and showing a possibility.
“Even though they are so big, they are a gentle giant … each one has a different personality and by being in this organization I can see that,” Mitzel said.