Introduce yourselves, and tell us about your riding as a junior!
Hi! Our names are Mathilda Kunz, Julia Cataldo, and Katy Munn. We grew up riding at Quiet Run with Mo and Mel and were fortunate enough to lease and ride a variety of horses that exposed us to all three rings.
Mathilda: I leased a thoroughbred named Kipling when I was in middle school and we competed in the optimum time jumpers together. In high school, I moved to Wilbur, who showed me the ins and outs of all three rings until junior year of high school. Then, I purchased my first horse, Cecilia, a green thoroughbred mare. Cecilia and I worked our way up from the hopeful hunters to the children’s hunters, and she is now at college with me.
Julia: I was 8 when I started riding. During my freshman year of high school, I started working at the barn and shortly after, I started leasing a warmblood named Stryder. I rode Stryder right up until leaving for college and we competed locally in the optimum time jumpers and modified equitation!
Katy: I started riding at Quiet Run when I was 7. In middle school, I leased a paint named Kaden who I competed locally in the special hunters and modified equitation. In high school, I leased Lola, a warmblood mare who I rode in the low children's jumpers. We ventured to Northampton, Massachusetts and the Vermont Summer festival to show a few times, but mainly stayed local.
What school(s) do you go to, and what year are you? Do you have a declared major or area of study?
Mathilda: I am a freshman at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York and I am planning on majoring in psych and minoring in public health.
Julia: I am a freshman at Le Moyne College in Syracuse. I am majoring in biology.
Katy: I am a sophomore at SUNY Geneseo in Geneseo NY. I am majoring in Special Education with a minor in natural sciences.
What was the college search and application process like for you? How did riding play in to your search?
Mathilda: I knew going into my college search that I wanted a school with a riding team. I was hoping to take Cecilia with me, so finding a school with student boarding was a high priority for me as well. I ended up making a list of several schools with the pros and cons of each, and when it came down to St. Lawrence, the only con was the cold winters. SLU had a riding team, a barn with student boarding, all the academic programs I was looking for, and was the perfect size and distance from home. Obviously academics was my highest priority, but riding was close behind that.
Julia: Looking for schools, I knew horses had to be a part of my college experience. That narrowed my search quite a bit. My plan was to go on a pre-med track. Le Moyne offers a great nursing program as well as a club riding team. I knew then that Le Moyne was the school for me and applied early action.
Katy: After spending just about every day after school at the barn in both middle and high school, a college with a riding team was definitely something I had in mind. I was looking for a school that had the best of both worlds: a great education program and a riding team. SUNY Geneseo fit both of those needs and I applied early decision.
What has been/was your biggest adjustment coming to college?
Mathilda: Riding was the thing I was most nervous about but it turned out to be my favorite thing about college. I was afraid of having to learn the new rules and teaching styles of different coaches and I was worried that having Cecilia with me would interfere with academics. However, all the upperclassmen and coaches were very welcoming and helpful and the barn is the perfect destresser after class. I was also very nervous about making friends. This was a little difficult for me at first because before the team started, I had trouble finding people that I clicked with. The team has really helped me find people with common interests as me.
Julia: My biggest adjustment was not being able to see my family as often. We are very close and that was not an easy thing for me to go through, as well as having to do a lot of things on my own. Also, starting at a new barn was stressful, you have to adjust to the way they do things, which was a little difficult for me in the beginning since I have been doing it the same way for the last 10 years. But after a couple weeks you get the hang of it and it starts to become the best part of college.
Katy: Most importantly, not having my dogs at school!!!! As for the team, after riding at one place for 12 years, it took a bit to get used to the different training and teaching styles my coach has.
Tell us about your riding team(s) or club(s). How did you find out about it, and join?
Our teams are all in Zone 2 Region 2, so we get to see each other at every horse show!
Mathilda: The first time I toured St. Lawrence, I also did a tour of the riding facility with the head coach where I was able to ask her questions about the team as well as bringing Cecilia with me. After being accepted into SLU, I was in contact with both the head coach and barn manager about bringing Cecilia with me. She arrived at SLU a few weeks after I did because I wanted some time to adjust. I signed up for the lesson program at SLU at the club fair and they had us take lessons for a few weeks before they held tryouts so they could get a feel for how everyone rides beforehand. For tryouts, we each tried out for our specific divisions and we were given a different horse for jumping and flat and most people were assigned a horse they had never ridden.
Julia: The Le Moyne website has a page for the equestrian team, where I was able to get my coach’s contact information. After contacting her, we set up a tryout time for when I got to school. At tryouts, I rode and jumped one of my coach’s horses, and that day I found out I made the team.
Katy: Geneseo has a website for their equestrian team which has the teams schedule, roster, contact information for my coach, and a little bit about the team. At accepted students day, I was able to meet my coach, see the barn, and ask questions about the team logistics. Then in August, when we got to school, there was an open house at the barn for anyone interested in joining the team. Tryouts were held a week later. At tryouts, Coach assigned us a horse to ride- we all rode in groups based off the division we were trying out for and we tried out on 2 different horses.
How does riding fit in with your life and schedule at college? How often do you get to ride and what are your obligations to the team/club?
Mathilda: I go to the barn six days a week and since I primarily have morning classes, I usually ride after class. Before the lesson program began, we gave our class schedules to the coaches and they organized lessons around our academic schedule. Members of the riding team are required to do two lessons a week on SLU horses as well friday practice. I also do an additional lesson on Cecilia once a week too. We are also required to do an hour of barn work each week. Before our home shows, we are each assigned a few horses that we are in charge of getting ready by pulling their manes, giving baths, cleaning stalls, and trimming whiskers/bridle paths.
Julia: My team is a club team, so our obligations aren’t quite as extensive as others may be. We have 2 practices a week that we are required to be at and that must be made up if missed. I pay a coaching and entry fee for each show. Every month, my team sends a package to deployed soldiers, so we all contribute to that as well.
Katy: My team is a varsity sport at Geneseo. Our obligations include 2 lessons, 2 hacks, and 1 hour of barn chores every week. Along with that, we are each assigned a few horses that are our grooming horses for the year- we make sure their manes are kept short and that they are clean and ready for our home shows. Our lesson and chore schedule are arranged around our classes and we hack when we have time- often on the weekends!
What is it like competing in the IHSA? Can you describe how the IHSA works, for those who are unfamiliar with it?
IHSA stands for intercollegiate horse show association. We have 8 shows a year within our region, then regionals, zones, and nationals for those who qualify. There are divisions for every level of rider- from walk trot classes to open classes (2’6” fences) and you are placed in a division based off your riding experience prior to coming to school. At shows, we are randomly assigned a horse from the host school to compete on.
Growing up, all 3 of us were able to ride and learn on a variety of horses at Quiet Run which definitely helped us to feel more confident walking into the ring on a horse we don’t know. Being able to adapt to your horse quickly is key in IHSA.
Fun small world story- When St. Lawrence hosts shows, Mathilda’s horse Cecilia is used in the draw. Our first horse show at St. Lawrence for the year, Julia drew Cecilia to ride over fences!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Any junior that is starting the process of looking at colleges, we definitely recommend looking into a college with a riding team! For all three of us, many of our best friends at school are our teammates. We love being able to continue our favorite sport while in college, and competing in IHSA is a lot of fun!
Not just for riding but with college in general, don’t be afraid to try new things and put yourself out there! Going out of your comfort zone can be intimidating at first but college is the perfect place to find who you are and what makes you happy.