The College of William and Mary has almost every club, team and organization a student could ask for. Tour guides talk about the infamous Cheese Club and the spirited Quidditch Club during tours of the College. However, that is not the full extent of what the College has to offer.
Perhaps less known to the campus community: William and Mary Equestrian.
“Our club is about 50 people, and then within that there is a competitive team,” Equestrian Co-President Matthew Parciak ’19 said. “Our team goes through tryouts and they ride twice a week and compete at horse shows throughout the school year, whereas our club just rides once [a week].”
The team is a tier-one sport which gives it a huge budget, but comes with a rigorous training schedule and more mundane tasks like budget meetings.
“I organize — with Emily, [my Co-President] — our lesson schedule with our coach a lot,” Parciak said. “Also, there’s a lot of rec sports requirements that we have to do. We are a tier-one sport, technically, so we are at the highest budget level, so there’s a lot of standards we have to meet to maintain that every year. We also do our budget presentation and a lot of stuff like that. Emily and I also drive the van when it comes to horse shows.”
Their list of duties seems to be never ending, especially considering that they must also balance other activities and academics.
“We have two lessons a week as a team member, and they’re three hours [each], so that’s six hours,” Co-President Emily Peairs ’20 said. “We have a show on the weekend so that’s all day, which is usually eight to nine hours. And then just two to three hours of planning and organizing.”
Team Captain Logan Bishop ’20 explained her own role in the organization.
“I deal with a lot of forms I got through Rec Sports,” Bishop said. “I have to submit event forms and van requests. I’m in charge of making sure everyone is organized and ready to compete. I host team dinners, I’ve been working on doing team workouts this season. Mainly just trying to make the team bond.”
Bishop continued by describing the dedication that Equestrian Club requires.
“I would say that a lot of people don’t consider it a sport, but you have to consider that it takes not only a lot of physical strength — like core strength — but it’s a mental game as well,” Bishop said. “You’re constantly thinking about your position, the horse’s form, your pace, your horse. There are so many things that you have to think about. Not only do you have to think about yourself and your nerves, but your horse does pay attention to how you’re feeling. They can detect nerves, so you do have to control your own horse.
Bishop said the equestrian team is often underrated as a sport.
“Most of the riders on the team could compete in other sports,” Bishop said. “I used to run track and I could do something like that. This sport is underrated. We are athletes just like everyone else who plays other sports.”
These students are willing to spend countless hours at work with their teammates and animals, but many study history, biology and business — all subjects completely unrelated to horseback riding. The team members are not simply a part of the team in order to gain job experience; they devote their time to this organization because they are passionate about it.
Despite the long hours, the majority of the student body and faculty are unaware of the club’s presence.
“It’s like any club, you just hear about things as you’re here,” Peairs said. “We try to do a lot of promotional stuff and tabling and the Activities Fair to get our name out there … Yeah, I think it’d be fun to have a bigger club. But also, I love the people involved now, and the people who do know about it are very committed and really like to [ride] because it is pretty intense.”
Parciak does not seem too bothered by the small following either.
“I think a lot of team members’ friends and boyfriends and girlfriends attend [competitions], but I don’t think we get a lot of recognition on campus,” Parciak said.
On a more serious note, Bishop disclosed that William and Mary Equestrian is still not recognized by most students.
“Regular sports teams get recognized as varsity athletes and we don’t, which is something that I’m kind of used to now,” Bishop said. “In high school it was kind of the same deal, right — it wasn’t recognized as much. It is a varsity sport, technically, through the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. We are nationally recognized. Unfortunately, the school does not recognize us as a varsity sport. … So, no, I don’t get a lot of recognition here, but I get recognition within the association, and that’s all I need.”