Equestrian team fundraises with miniature ponies

Jamie Williams

The WKU equestrian team allowed students to pet ponies in costumes and take carriage rides on Friday in order to raise funds for team expenses like show entry fees, hotel fees and new equipment for the team.

“Being part of the team is a little bit expensive, and so this helps us kind of defer some of the costs,” coach Jennifer Gill said.

The fundraiser allowed students to pet and take photographs with the miniature horses for a small fee. Students could also ride in a cart pulled by one of the horses. A couple of the horses were dressed in Halloween costumes, while the cart was covered in autumn decorations.

One of the horses, named Chanel, was dressed as Minnie Mouse, while another, named Cough Drop, was dressed as a ninja turtle –– complete with a shell and headband.

Shannon Spears, a senior from Hendrick, Iowa, said that he decided to join the team in order to be more involved at WKU and because he had been around horses for a long time.

“It’s really amazing how well Dr. Gill is able to teach new techniques and kind of perfect ones that are old,” Spears said while tending to Cough Drop.

Spears added being able to be part of a team, contributing to something larger than himself and getting to know everyone were his favorite parts about participating.

Students who would like to go beyond fundraising can also try out for the team. Tryouts take place each fall semester, and anyone can try out as long as they have basic knowledge of horse care and safety. The team takes members of all skill levels, and competitions are split into tiers to give participants of all levels a fair chance.

“Talk to the other girls on the team,” Gill said. “Come try out; it never hurts to try out. We take all levels of riders from beginners to advanced, so it never really excludes anybody.”

Rachel Bunner, a junior from Rockport, Indiana, urges others to try out to make new friends and build the community. Bunner added her favorite part of being on the team was working with the horses and grooming them at the Expo Center.

“Surprisingly, I like the barn hours,” Bunner said. “It’s kind of like our community service for the team –– we have to do eight [hours] a semester.”

Students who don’t want to try out can watch the team perform in competition, though they take place at other universities.

“A lot of our competitions are kind of far away, but we will be –– hopefully soon –– hosting some of our own shows here at the Expo Center,” Gill said.

During the team’s first show this year, it won reserve high point team, and one member of the team has already qualified for regionals. The team’s next competition will take place on Nov. 12 and 13 at Murray State University.

“I love riding horses, and I love teaching riding,” Gill said. “It’s really a passion of mine to help students ride to their full potential. It’s a great opportunity to connect with my students and get them out and around horses and learning.”

Reporter Jamie Williams can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].