Jumping Into A New Sport: The SHSU Equestrian Team
March 18, 2020
SHSU Media Contact: Emily Binetti
Sometimes it can be tough for new students to find the right circle of like-minded friends. For Kyleigh Mcloughlin, the solution was clear – create your own group.
Comradery and a passion for competitive horse riding prompted the sophomore animal science major to pursue her dream of starting the Sam Houston State University Equestrian team. With support from a dedicated professor and a generous alumna, along with her own grit and determination, she’s happy to be back in the saddle along with several new friends.
After a decade of experience in show jumping, Mcloughlin was disappointed to discover the university didn’t have an equestrian team.
“I came to Sam Houston as a freshman and decided I really wanted to continue riding. There was rodeo and stock horse and judging. None of those have anything to do with my background in English riding,” Mcloughlin said.
Seeking advice from one of her favorite SHSU professors, Jessica Bedore in Equine Science, Mcloughlin discovered all it took was a faculty advisor and five student members to officially form a team. Understanding the need, Bedore was happy to help.
“Like Kyleigh, I was enthusiastic about getting a team started. English riding is huge in Houston. And, we have so many students coming from Houston it seemed like we needed an avenue to support that athletic endeavor,” Bedore said.
Mcloughlin quickly set out to rein in interested student riders, with Bedore agreeing to fill the faculty advisor role.
“Once a campus rumor started that an equestrian team was forming, I had random students – not just Ag students but also Business, Communications and Criminal Justice students asking how to join the team. So, I’d pass them on to Kyleigh,” Bedore said.
The next step for Mcloughlin in forming an official team was securing practice horses, a coach and a place to ride. Her search led her to the owner of JAKK Farms, SHSU alumna Karlie Leblanc (’07).
Currently the only public riding school in the region, Leblanc has offered riding lessons for students of all ages for the past six years. A 15-minute drive west of Huntsville, the owner and location became ideal prospects for the team.
“It peaked my interest,” Leblanc said. “After talking about her idea, Kyleigh observed a couple of lessons and said she enjoyed my teaching methods and wanted JAKK Farms to be the home of the team.”
Giving back to her alma mater, Leblanc is proud to provide facilities and horses needed for practice and also her time as the team’s new coach.
“As their coach I will travel with them to shows and help coordinate volunteer and fundraising opportunities, along with assisting co-hosting shows once the new show year starts,” Leblanc said.
As the team prepares for their first show in late August, they know there is still plenty of riding practice ahead of them along with fundraising in order to have all that is needed.
“The horse world is expensive. We don't own any horses. The university doesn't own horses. So, what would be ideal is having at least four horses that do both English and Western. Meaning, they've got enough style to do the low level English classes and they can also do the low level Western classes so that students who can't afford a horse can have something to compete with,” Bedore said.
Uniforms are another costly area of the sport where the students are hoping to secure sponsors.
“We are in desperate need of show clothes and they are expensive,” Mcloughlin said. “We’d love to have a closet with a variety of sizes and could loan out items to team members for competitions.”
After all the hard work in getting started, Mcloughlin is proud of the progress made and is excited to see what is to come. The SHSU Equestrian Team currently includes 13 female riders of all skill levels, who aim to compete individually and as teams in English style riding.
“Our team is open to all ungraduate students from any major. It's an open place for students to learn and discover different disciplines in the field,” Mcloughlin said. “In 2018 we started forming a team and I’m proud to say - now we finally have it. I hope it continues to grow with big success. I hope one day when someone hears about Sam Houston State they ask, ‘have you heard about their great equestrian team?’”
For more information on supporting the SHSU Equestrian team, contact Madisen Townsend at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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