Samantha Morrow | Staff Writer
Even when they aren’t on horseback, the UNT equestrian club is clearing hurdles.
This semester especially, the team has reached new heights in terms of competition, fundraising and volunteering, earning the recognition of Student Organization of the Year from Student Activities. To earn the award, the club completes two fundraisers and one social activity per month.
But over time, the fundraising became more about keeping the club afloat than winning awards.
“We were kind of in a sticky situation with dues and allocated funds only getting us so far,” junior club treasurer Breeland Lawson said. “We didn’t want to always struggle, [and we] didn’t want to ask members for more money. We wanted to make it as fun and easy as possible.”
Each of the club’s eight competitions costs $1,500, which means the fee is $12,000 to simply compete. This does not include apparel and other equipment necessary for the team to operate. Since the Recreational Sports Office only allocates $1,900 to the club, the team is left with a steep deficit to make up for.
With new officers coming in, the goal was to keep member dues below $200 while still competing in the events they signed up for.
And to do that required fundraising.
“Equestrian is an expensive sport,” junior club president Tiffany Mayfield said. “All of the fundraising that we do keeps us going because without it, we would not be able to do all of our competitions.”
The team has managed to raise $3,000 this semester from various fundraisers including a Valentine flower sale, lemonade stand and a percentage night at Panda Express. The biggest thing they have done to fundraise is Coliseum clean up, picking up trash and helping various event coordinators after events end at the Super Pit.
The team earns between $200-300 from this alone.
“There is a lot of pressure to make sure our competitions are fully paid for,” junior club secretary Hannah Collins said. “But this semester we have really stepped it up with the fundraising so the financial burden is not there as much.”
Along with turning around their fundraising efforts and activity in the community, the team has also been more competitive on horseback.
So far this season, the team has experienced unparalleled success. UNT competes in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) in zone seven, region two in both English and Western. They compete against schools such as North Central Texas College, Texas Tech University, West Texas A&M University and the University of Oklahoma.
Each of the two teams within the club are not only completely separate in style and dress, but they also practice at two different facilities.
The Western team practices at Oakdale Farms with Golden Touch Stables with stable owner and head coach Courtney Burggren, while the English team practices at Diamond Four Ranch with Storybooks Sporthorses with coach and Storybooks trainer Julene Chiaramonte.
“Each member practices at least once a week,” Collins said. “The horses that we practice with are donated for us to use and we switch which horse we practice with depending on what our coach thinks we need to work on.”
Even though practicing with different horses is good preparation, members of the equestrian team have no clue what horse they will be riding until the day of the competition.
The Western team has become the most successful of the two, as they brought home five blue ribbons in various classes at one show and even sent a rider to regionals for the first time. Mayfield says that while the Western team has reached the point where they are consistently winning, the English is still trying to find their footing.
“The English team has been in a period of growth whereas the Western team has been more established since the start of the club,” Mayfield said.
Despite hitting a peak in their club’s history, the team does not plan on slowing down anytime soon.
The equestrian club hopes its hard work will not only translate into trophies but also into points with the Recreational Sports Office so that they can be rewarded with more funding.
“We put a lot of work into organization of this year,” Lawson said. “We want to push for more individual achievements and push our team goals and the next step is sponsorship, which we have started the paperwork on.”
Now that the club has won Student Organization of the Year, they are finding success in the ring and money is becoming less of a problem, Mayfield believes that the club can start to look towards long-term goals, including having their own facility and getting sponsored.
Sponsorship for the team would mean getting local businesses or supporters to fund them financially, which would allow them to grow even more.
“One day I think we will get to the point of having a unified barn with staffed coaches,” Mayfield said. “I think if we keep working towards that and get recognized by the university as an actual sport, not just a sport club.”
With the growing pains seemingly behind them, the equestrian club will now look to turn their past obstacles into future success.
They want to turn their attention from raising money, to raising championship banners.
“Our club has gone through many ups and downs in four years,” Mayfield said. “We have hit the pinnacle of our growing period and it can only go up from here.”
Featured Image: Senior Shelby Aiken jumps over a barrier at practice. Aiken is part of the UNT English Equestrian team. Sara Carpenter