Lander equestrian team wraps up a successful competitive season

May 23, 2012
Lander University's equestrian program made impressive gains in the 2011-2012 academic year, and coach Mary Hughston Weaver is proud of the progress the team showed in only its second full season.

Weaver said, "We started with seven riders when the team was organized. This year there were 25 riders and 30 horses in the program." She said it would be ideal to have 30 to 40 riders, one for every class in the hunt seat and western categories. But, she added, "There has been tremendous growth in the development of our riders."

Weaver credits word of mouth and her professional contacts with the increase in size of the program. She said many prospective students are aware of Lander's equestrian program and some enroll at the university because of it.

The team competed in eight hunt seat and eight western events and hosted two Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) regional competitions at Lander's Equestrian Center. At the end of the regular season, the Lander team finished third out of 15 schools in hunt seat and fourth out of six in western. Seven Lander riders qualified for regional competition and three were semi-finalists.

Ellison Poston, one of the team's most experienced riders, will not be returning next season. She received her nursing degree at Lander's April 28 commencement. In May of 2011, she competed at the IHSA national championships in Lexington, Ky., finishing ninth among 16 riders in the walk, trot, canter category. Poston is the daughter of Equestrian Center director Nancy Poston and Atty. Kenny Poston of Hodges.

Lander will be in a new conference when the fall season begins. It has been one of 15 colleges and universities in IHSA's Zone 5, Region 2. In October, the team will move to Zone 5, Region 3.

Weaver said the team will have a male rider, a freshman student, in the fall. From the start, all the Lander riders have been women with the exception of two male students, one who dropped from the program for health reasons. The other left because the time commitment was too great for his scholastic schedule.

As for why only small numbers of men are attracted to college-level equitation, Weaver said it is viewed primarily as a woman's sport, although male riders dominate at the professional level.

Lander team members are expected to be available for two lessons a week, averaging a total of five hours of riding; one team workout and one independent session. Weaver said, "We encourage students to practice ride as much as possible." They are also required to spend time at least once a month assisting in the grooming upkeep of one of the center's horses.