Equestrian club spurs an interest in riding

Megan Reilly, a junior elementary education major, has wanted to own a horse of her own since she was 5 years old.

Reilly has spent the last few years as a member of the Eastern Equestrian Club. She cares for and rides horses with her 5-year-old self in mind.

Before the Equestrian Club was formed, Reilly, vice president of the club, took lessons after becoming fascinated with horses as a child.

Her interest peaked when she would visit her grandma, who lived next to a farm with ponies.

“Regardless of when we would arrive at my grandparents’ house, they would find me with a bag of carrots out at the fence near the ponies,” Reilly said.

Reilly was able to carry on her “addiction” to horses at Eastern when she and friend Jennifer Heinemann, now Equestrian Club president, established the club in 2009.

The club focuses on teaching its members horse care, as well as two styles of riding: western and hunt seat. The Equestrian Club also participates in competitions throughout the year.

Heinemann, a senior elementary education major, will compete in the club’s next show at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind.

She and another member have a chance to go to regionals if they do well in the next two shows.

Reilly remembers her first competition.

“Your first time, you’re so nervous and it’s awful, because you’re sitting on top of a live animal and if you’re quivering, that horse can feel your nervousness and then they get nervous,” Reilly said.

Reilly said she has learned more than just riding while being a member of the Equestrian Club. Reilly said she also has learned to handle herself in the competition ring and appreciate hard work while horseback riding.

“It’s all about having confidence in what you are doing,” Reilly said. “When you go out and shovel and get permission to ride you really learn the value of hard work.”

During the club’s barn meetings with Equestrian Team head coach, Kandi Lane, located outside of Toledo, members learn about and interact with the horses.

“Everybody just kind of chips in and helps a little bit around the barn and then everybody gets to ride,” Reilly said.

Although the club focuses on horseback riding, Reilly and Heinemann both said they felt camaraderie with the people in the club with the same passion for riding.

Lane volunteers her time and facilities to the club as a way to share her enthusiasm for horses.

“This is my way of trying to give back to the community,” Lane said.

She said she likes when people start off knowing little, and gets to watch them learn and flourish.

Lane said she encourages members to compete with themselves and strive to do better each time.

Heinemann thinks it is important to learn from each competition, even if it didn’t go as well as expected.

“There’s always room for improvement,” Heinemann said. “You can always grow.”

Sam Bohne can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].