by Maddy Skrak ’18
Riding at Mount Holyoke is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. It’s a community. It’s friends. It’s a team. And most importantly, it’s pursuing a passion alongside an inspiring group of people who share your love for horses.
Here are 12 more reasons why.
12. Our school horse sweethearts
Some short, some tall, some quirky — our 40 horses are full of lessons to teach. There’s Sadie, an angel who will jump anything you point her to. Stanley is the Paso Fino with the smoothest trot. Noah — you’d better hold on! Viktor is the star of the national anthem at shows. Scarlett is a top-level dressage horse, but good luck getting her bridle on without a bag of treats.
11. Climbing as a team on Mountain Day
You’ll finally be at a place where it’s cool to walk around in your riding clothes. With 43 of your newest friends/teammates.
10. We take workouts seriously.
As varsity athletes, riders are treated as seriously as Mount Holyoke’s other impressive athletes. We have mandatory workouts twice week, led by team officers in the Lyon’s Den (bottom floor of the Kendall Sports and Dance Complex) or outside, and often mix cardio with weights. We’ve been known to throw in some yoga and Zumba, too.
9. Working with some of MHC’s smartest and finest
We have two of the best coaches in the entire world. C.J. Law and Morgan Lynch work endless hours to make us perform at our best. They teach us lessons in and out of the arena — most of which go far beyond riding.
8. Wednesday night team meetings
This is a weekly chance to talk about news, team responsibilities, jobs at our home shows, workouts and team bonding. It’s also a time for C.J. to share hysterical stories from her 33 years of coaching at Mount Holyoke.
7. Secret psych-ups
Imagine playing a semester-long game of Clue where you have no idea who is pepping you up before every show: bags of candy, hand-made cards, balloons, decked-out lawn chairs, etc. Some of the best things I’ve received include a unicorn pillow pet and a mug that I actually used this morning! The big reveal — who is my secret psych-up? — happens at a team banquet.
6. Every season is riding season.
This is true even if you come from a warm place like, say, New Mexico. You will quickly learn that “hotties” (hand and foot warmers) are your new best friends in the arena during winter. We always pop them in our boots and in our gloves to keep warm.
5. Famous lessons and a magic bag of tricks
Get ready for wildly creative lessons. We exercise on trampolines to improve coordination and half-halts in the saddle. We make a fist on the reins and place small rocks atop our hands to keep them still. We gallop around the arena in jockey stirrups to practice moving the horses forward and opening their strides. We practice “renvers,” an all-time favorite, during which C.J. bellows in a funny voice to work the horses laterally. We jump in the giant cross-country field behind the stable, a fun adventure full of photo ops. Sometimes we even ride bareback, western or dressage. And within C.J.’s black canvas bag of tricks? Creations like “the goggles,” which keep you from looking down. And the “uniboob” helmet, which forces you to stay off the horse’s neck. And the “rubber band,” which keeps your hands still.
4. Amazing riding alumnae
They are empowered, talented and inspiring — with awesome professional and professional riding careers to boot. They come to visit all the time, especially before shows. They are a testament to one of C.J.’s favorite sayings: “You’ll make friends for life.”
3. Traveling as a team
Seeing nationally ranked competitors at the tournaments of champions keeps us focused and aware of how hard we need to train throughout the season. But traveling also means having way too much fun, often in airports. Like the time we wore our helmets and hairnets. Or the time we made a full-out music video on the electric walkway (“magic carpet”).
2. One word: Nationals
It’s an honor to be on a team that almost always makes it to this prestigious competition, where you get a chance to compete at the top level. I cannot imagine a better feeling than seeing a friend do her personal best at the IHSA “big time.” We also have more fun than anyone out there. We won the 2017 Spirit Contest, an honor we largely attribute to our coach dressing up as Pokey, the talking orange pony from the Gumby and Pokey claymation duo. At the IHSA Nationals in 2016, C.J. debuted her very own music video to Adele’s song “Hello” — pink wig, fur cloak and all — on the jumbotron for all to see.
1. No rider mounts alone — or without super shiny boots.
Every time you mount the horse you drew before a class, our “blue army” — team members in our blue coats and gear — will be at your side. Whether it’s at a home show, an away show, a tournament, regionals, zones or nationals. And thanks to pre-show boot-polishing parties, our equipment always shines like the top of the Chrysler Building.