This year the Harvard equestrian team placed fifth out of thirteen teams in its division. The club consists of 20 dedicated members who participated in seven shows this year with other squads in the region, including Dartmouth, Tufts and New Hampshire.
The equestrians compete both for team prizes and individual honors. Junior Captain Ann Carmen came in fourth place in national competition in Cleveland, Ohio this year.
The club was established seven years ago and started with two members. Since then, however, the team has grown considerably in number and talent.
"The team has potential to do extremely well next year," Carmen said. "We have many talented people on the team. We're trying to get recognition for that."
The equestrian team practices every week in Danvers at the Longview Farm. Club sports do not receive university funding, and team members must pay for the heavy expenses individually. Most members of the team complained that the club status causes large individual expenses and prevents the team from obtaining recruits.
"The major problem that we've had is we're a club sport at Harvard and all the teams that we compete against are varsity sports that get funding and recruit people," sophomore Mary Rocha said.
Junior Richard Chang, the club's president said that while Harvard has 20 members. Dartmouth's squad, which has varsity status, fields about 60 people.
Carmen said the young club's financial problems stem from the lack of established alumni, who could offer donations.
Various colleges host the shows in which Harvard competes. Chang said that the schools rent horses so the host team does not have an advantage over the visiting teams. Competitors choose their horses randomly by drawing out of a hat.
"The thing about intercollegiate riding is that there's a balance between luck and talent. In the end it all balances out," Carmen said.
At the shows, judges evaluate the equestrians according to the ease and poise with which participants control their horses while trotting, walking and cantering on flat terrain or jumping over fences. The team consists of beginner, novice, intermediate, and open candidates. Some members have been riding for many years, while others have never been on, or even seen a real horse.
"Some people's abilities go to the extent of riding a horse on a merry-go-round, while others have been riding since they were six or seven," said Chang, the only male on the team this year. "[The team] is really laid back," Chang said.