With its first Nationals appearance under its belt, the Sonoma State Equestrian team is ready to make some more history.
While its purpose includes teaching and promoting the correct riding styles and disciplines of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) and the West Coast Collegiate Eventing League (WCCEL), it also advocates good sportsmanship, leadership, and healthy lifestyles, among many others positive attributes.
Former president and current member Shira Rebibo has a serious passion for riding. Even though Rebibo decided to step down as president, after serving for two years, the senior cannot imagine her life without riding.
“I have been riding for 15 years and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon,” said Rebibo.
The Sonoma State Equestrian team competes in three different disciplines: hunt seat equitation, western horsemanship, and eventing. Riders in hunt seat and western are not required to own their own horse, but eventing riders must at least have access to one.
The hunt seat team rides a few miles away from Sonoma State’s campus at Petaluma Hill Stables with trainer Carrie Hover, while the western team travels to Peter Larson Training Stables in Sebastapol to train. Because the eventing team must own or have access to a horse, they can train at any approved barn for eventing.
A typical season consists of about seven regular season shows and up to three shows during post-season. The team competes against eight other schools in California and is currently ranked third in the state behind Stanford and UC Davis.
The team requires that all riders have two gym days per week to stay conditioned, in addition to mandatory lessons, which is dependent on the discipline.
With a full semester’s schedule, it can be hard to balance everything from school, riding, work, and other extracurricular activities. Some girls devote six hours a week to being on the team, while others with more responsibilities, such as being president, treasurer, or captain, can commit to 10 or more hours.
Sarah Villaseñor, one of the riders who went to Nationals in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania last year, loves how close the team is.
Because the members of the team all share the same passion, it is easy for them to get along and make lifelong friendships. Rebibo has lived with girls on the team for the past two years and agrees with Villaseñor that one of their favorite parts about the team is the people they have met.
“One thing that keeps me on the team is the people. They are such a great group and since we are a smaller team, we are close,” said Villaseñor.
Another way the girls become so close is through the fundraisers they hold about once a month. Fundraisers include bake sales, carwashes, dine-and-donates, as well as holding a major fundraiser at the end of each year. In the past that has been a wine tasting event, but last year the team hosted a dressage show, which was a huge success.
Senior Taylor Leigh has been riding since she was 6 years old and has been riding hunt seat ever since. She also rides her own horse, which she brought up from Los Angeles, California.
“I look forward to spending time with the team and to making to new friends who share my passion,” said Leigh.
The girls all love riding and have a passion for it, but there are also lessons to be learned through riding and being on the team. Senior Rebibo has learned that working with different trainers and showing to different judges is a positive and great learning experience.
Villaseñor has also learned some valuable lessons. Being on the team has given her a higher sense of responsibility because she has to stay on top of everything by balancing school, work and volunteering; in addition to the demands of the team.
Although interested students do not need to have experience in order to be on the team, an introductory lesson with the correct trainer is required. From that, riders will be placed in the appropriate levels, even if they decide not to compete their first year on the team.
Members of the team will also hold three info nights on Aug. 25-27. The team is open to any and all current Sonoma State students and anybody interested should check out the website at ssuequestrian.com send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or attend one of the info nights.