By: Madison Thiel
University of South Carolina
What a simple question, yet so much I can think of to say. The equestrian sport is a unique sport to begin with. Not only because we compete with a half-ton animal but because this sport is an individual sport before we enter college, which meant not only was college going to be new to me, but learning how to live, work, and compete with a group of girls from all different kinds of backgrounds and styles of riding was going to be new as well.
As a freshman in 2015, stepping onto campus for the first time and getting to know my new home for the next four years seemed unmanageable, but with the help of 40 instantaneous friends I was able to feel comfortable in my new surroundings. Little did I know that this group of girls, all that were added and those that graduated during my four years, would soon become my family and make college the best years of my life. Being on the equestrian team taught me more than I can ever explain, but I will try my best.
This team taught me about relationships and relying on others. It taught me how to wake up for an early workout and to NEVER be late to ANYTHING. It taught me that hunt seat riders and western riders had a lot to teach each other. It taught me that good attitudes spread just as easily as bad ones. It taught me how to work together through tough times and that victory only comes when you work as a group. It taught me to respect my teammates, because I would be seeing a lot of them. It taught me time management, discipline, and responsibility.
The relationships I have within the team mean more to me than anything. From my second families to coaches and academic staff, I will always treasure the lessons and relationships as my life begins to change. I am excited to have another semester to complete this coming fall, but without being on the team it will be quite different. I know I will miss my hectic schedule without the early morning workouts and late team meetings, but I’m eager to experience a different student life with all the tools I’ve learned as an athlete.
Nothing can replace what being on an NCAA equestrian team has taught me. It has shaped me into the woman I am today and has prepared me for the next stage of my life. I know that competition is important in college, however looking back at my four years as a student athlete, my best memories come from so much more than the score on the scoreboard. They come from the coaches, the teammates, the barn staff, the advisors, and everyone else involved in making my time on the team the best of my life. My four years on a NCAA equestrian team are matchless and I am blessed to have had the opportunity.