At Crosswinds Equestrian Center, 15 miles off Marist College’s campus, 40 Marist students train year-round and compete for the school’s Club Equestrian Team. Led by Coach Clare Knapp, the team is headed to Nationals for the second year in a row, and an international competition for the first time.
Knapp, a 2003 Marist graduate, never rode for Marist. While a student here, she was captain of the track team. However, she grew up riding. Her family owns Crosswinds, where the team practices and holds competitions. In 2007, Marist asked her to coach the team, a position she’s held ever since.
In both the fall and spring semesters, members of the Marist Equestrian Team compete in Zone Three of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA). They also compete in numerous tournaments, dependent on the year and the season. Of the 40 members, 35 show. The team accepts riders of all levels. Teams are judged at multiple levels, so all team members are encouraged to compete regardless of experience.
In their normal competition circuit, IHSA Zone Three, students compete on a different horse each time. Horses are assigned to the students on the day of competition based off of a random draw. “It’s a horse that you’ve never sat on before. You don’t get any warm up jumps, you just get on, walk into the ring and compete,” explained Coach Knapp. “It takes great horsemanship ability to adapt and really recognize every horse is so different.”
The team saw many successes this year. They came in second overall in their Zone, and they also won the Battle in the Saddle invitational tournament. Many individual wins and honors have been achieved by the team as well.
On April 25 through 28, three Marist Students competed in the Longines Masters in New York City, an inaugural invitational international competition. Three Marist students were invited to compete: Captains Mia Fellin, Sarah Levi, and senior Blake Portmann.
Sophomore Leah Tanzman won Zone regionals and qualified for Nationals in novice fences. On May 2 through 5, she will be competing for Marist in Syracuse. This year marks Tanzman’s first regionals appearance, which she won. It is also her first time qualifying for nationals.
“At Nationals, you’re competing against the best of the best riders throughout the nation,” Tanzman said. “My goal is to obviously ride well and feel proud of myself for going forward there.” She transferred to Marist at the start of this academic school year from Siena College, where she also rode in the IHSA.
Teammate Mia Fellin mentioned that Tanzman’s win at regionals was one of her most memorable moments from this past season with the team. “She’s tried so hard since she’s been here, it was so deserving,” Fellin said. “It was crazy to see our whole team so happy for her.” Fellin is a junior, and has been captain of the team since her second semester of freshman year.
The team has also provided its members with opportunities to help run the events. Junior Connor Murphy helps announce the shows. “Whenever we have a home show, we always need an announcer. I offered to do it once freshman year, and I’ve offered to do it every other year since,” Murphy said. He mentioned that it was a great experience, “to learn from the people who are determining who comes in first, second, and so forth.” Murphy knew before coming to Marist that he wanted to ride in college, something he’s been doing since he was 9-years-old.
Going forward, the team hopes to beat rival team Centenary University next year for the Zone title. Murphy hopes to see more members qualify for nationals. Coach Knapp knows of 12 interested incoming freshmen, and is excited to see the talent and dynamics they’ll bring to the team.
Their home shows are free and open to the public. The team has had faculty members in attendance at shows, but would love to get more students to attend. Their active Facebook page keeps the public updated on all their events and results.
Edited by Will Bjarnar and Oscar Fick